Four people have been killed in a suicide bombing in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, as the Islamic State makes its presence felt more tangibly in the country, whose government is playing a dangerous double game over Syria.
The attack on Saturday saw a suicide bomber target a busy tourist area, killing four people, including an Iranian and three Israelis, two of whom were U.S. citizens.
According to Turkish officials, the suicide bomber was a Turkish citizen and a member of the Islamic State who was reportedly operating in Syria for two years before illegally re-entering Turkey.
Israeli media maintains that the Israelis were deliberately targeted, based on the Twitter claim of a Turkish journalist that the suicide bomber followed the Israeli tourists from their hotel and waited until they exited the restaurant before launching the attack.
Turkey is on full alert—and the expectations are that while President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lost control over this increasingly geopolitical gambit, he will also use this as a springboard for even more drastic security measures.
After taking over the daily Zaman newspaper for the state and turning into a friendly mouthpiece, the government has also banned gatherings in the wake of the terrorist attacks, which include two recent high-profile attacks in the capital Ankara in addition to the attack last weekend in Istanbul. On Monday, Turkish police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into crowds of hundreds of people celebrating the Kurdish New Year, Nevruz, and dozens were arrested in an Istanbul neighborhood in the run-up to these celebrations.
The situation in Turkey is spiraling out of control, and the attack in Istanbul is indicative of a very dangerous trend. The attack took place in a pedestrian thruway and will strike at Turkey’s already troubled tourism industry. Too many conflicts on overlapping fronts are coming down to bear on Turkey’s central streets.
And what happens to Turkey will reverberate across Europe. The European Union is facing a major destabilizing crisis brought about ultimately by the conflict in Syria. At issue is the destabilizing force of more than one million irregular immigrants coming into the territory through Greece since January 2015. Turkey, of course, views this as a major bargaining chip with the EU.
Last week, Turkey agreed to take back refugees and asylum seekers landing in Greece, thereby closing off this particular human smuggling route. In return, the EU will give Turkey 6 billion euros in aid to help 2.7 million Syrian refugees now in Turkey. Turkey is also trading in here on an eased European visa regime for its citizens. But it’s just a putting a bandage on an open wound. Closing off this human smuggling route will divert traffic to another. Either way, Turkey is clearly tearing apart at the seams.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com