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Cracker Squire

THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

In Turkey, a late crackdown on Islamist fighters

From The Washington Post:

Before their blitz into Iraq earned them the title of the Middle East’s most feared insurgency, the jihadists of the Islamic State treated this Turkish town near the Syrian border as their own personal shopping mall.
And eager to aid any and all enemies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey rolled out the red carpet.

In dusty market stalls, among the baklava shops and kebab stands, locals talk of Islamist fighters openly stocking up on uniforms and the latest Samsung smartphones. Wounded jihadists from the Islamic State and the al-Nusra Front — an al-Qaeda offshoot also fighting the Syrian government — were treated at Turkish hospitals. Most important, the Turks winked as Reyhanli and other Turkish towns became way stations for moving foreign fighters and arms across the border.

“Turkey welcomed anyone against Assad, and now they are killing, spreading their disease, and we are all paying the price,” said Tamer Apis, a politician in Reyhanli, where two massive car bombs killed 52 people last year. In a nearby city, Turkish authorities seized another car packed with explosives in June, raising fears of an Islamic State-inspired campaign to export sectarian strife to Turkey.

“It was not just us,” Apis said. “But this is a mess of Turkey’s making.”

Initially a close Assad ally, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan broke with Damascus after the Syrian leader launched a bloody assault on opponents in 2011. Erdogan quickly emerged as a leading voice calling for international action to topple the Syrian leader.

But for Erdogan, a charismatic autocrat once filled with notions of building a neo-Ottoman sphere of influence across the Middle East, the move to tactically support a broad swath of the Syrian opposition has backfired, resulting in one of a series of recent setbacks for him at home and abroad.

Meanwhile, Turkish calculations in the Syrian conflict are fast evolving. The Turks have started cooperative talks with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Kurdish separatist group whose brothers in arms have fought a long guerrilla war against Turkey. The reason for the possible new alliance: The PYD controls a swath of Syria and is fighting against the Islamic State.

But Turkey’s about-face may be too little, too late.

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