ISIS branches out

Two bombings attributed to ISIS today suggest that the group might be expanding its operations into some new territory.

First, a number of explosions targeted vehicles belonging to members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, reportedly injuring a couple of bystanders. As far as I know there’s been no formal claim of responsibility for the blasts, but “a freshly painted ISIS flag” was apparently found near the scene. ISIS has been poking at Gaza and southern Israel for a little while now, declaring in a video last month its intention to “uproot the state of the Jews and you [Hamas, to whom the video was addressed] and Fatah [the Palestinian Authority]” and firing a rocket into southern Israel a couple of weeks ago (via its Sinai Province affiliate). Whether ISIS sees Gaza as the prize or is simply trying to bait Israel into a fight to boost its prestige and maybe help it destabilize neighboring Egypt…well, your guess is as good as mine.

Second, at least 31 people are dead and 100 wounded after an attack in the Turkish town of Suruç, along its Syrian border. The targets appeared to be members of the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations, which was holding an event in Suruç to drum up support for rebuilding the Kurdish-controlled city of Kobani in northern Syria. Again there hasn’t been a formal claim of responsibility so far as I know, but Turkish authorities seem to be pretty insistent that ISIS is the likely culprit. Then again, they’re also saying stuff like this:

A Turkish official speaking to CNN on condition of anonymity said the government thinks the attack is “retaliation to the Turkish government’s fight against terrorism.”

So far the “Turkish government’s fight against terrorism” has, when it comes to ISIS, mostly consisted of it looking the other way while ISIS used its border with Syria as a supply line. Indeed, for the Turks, “fighting terrorism” is about combating the Kurdish PKK, which is allied with the Kurdish PYD in Syria, also known as “the group that’s been doing most of the fighting against ISIS.” So whatever Ankara’s fight against terrorism has been, it hasn’t really been a fight against ISIS. This attack appears to have targeted Kurds, or at least people who are trying to help Kurds, and therefore could be seen as not being an attack on Turkey at all, despite the fact that it occurred on Turkish soil; that’s how complicated things are on that Turkey-Syria border right now. Still, this was an attack on Turkish soil, which is new for ISIS (assuming they were behind it), and given Turkey’s sensitive political situation right now, something like this could spur Ankara to actually start taking concrete steps to counter ISIS (controlling the border, for one thing).

On the other hand, the Turkish government could figure out a way to blame the whole mess on the Kurds and stick to its current policies, or even escalate and invade northern Syria to establish a buffer zone on the other side of the border. Turkey’s army opposes such a move, but a bombing like this might make it impossible for them to take a public stand against it. Heck, if Turkey President Tayyip Erdoğan plays his cards right, he could even spin this bombing into an electoral argument against divided government and the chaos it brings, then call new elections and hope to see his AKP returned to a parliamentary majority, so it no longer has to worry about forming a coalition and reopening those uncomfortable corruption investigations that the other Turkish political parties seem so interested in reopening. Then, if Erdoğan goes ahead with an invasion into northern Syria, using this bombing as part of his justification, he could hope to force Washington’s hand as far as shifting its Syria policy to focus more on taking out the Assad regime and reining in Kurdish ambitions. Which would ultimately benefit ISIS as well as Ankara. And all it would have taken was one attack on a bunch of people whom Erdoğan pretty much hates anyway.

Huh. Funny how that all fits together. Probably just my imagination though.

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Author: DWD

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