Three suicide bombers killed dozens of people on Tuesday at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, and Turkish authorities claimed it was the work of the Islamic State, or ISIS.
Following the Brussels airport bombings in March, this week’s horrific attack was yet another reminder to people around the globe of who bears the brunt of the never-ending battle against terrorism: innocent victims.
Connections to the United States
Turkey is one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East.
Last summer, Turkey decided to allow NATO to use the Incirlik base for striking ISIS. A lot of jet fighters, especially from the U.S. and Germany, took off from that base. That move was a positive turning point in the battle against ISIS.
In November, ISIS again declared jihad against Turkey and the coalition states, including the United States, in an article in the terrorist group’s English-language propaganda magazine Dabiq. The cover featured a photo of President Barack Obama and Turkey’s president, Tayyip Erdogan, as common enemies of ISIS.
Tuesday’s airport attack was meant, in part, to instill more fear in the American people, who are among the biggest enemies of ISIS.
Why Turkey is targeted
Turkey has been the target of multiple attacks by different groups in recent months.
The country is fighting a domestic Kurdish terrorist group (PKK) that wants to form a separate Kurdish state in the region.
But Turkey — as a supporter of U.S.-led coalition forces — also has been striking at ISIS in Syria and on the border with Syria, which has led to retaliatory strikes in Turkey by ISIS.
To make matters worse for Turkey, the PKK and ISIS are fighting among themselves, organizing about 10 major attacks in the last year in Turkey.
All the evidence indicates ISIS is likely responsible for the airport assault on Tuesday, especially because it appears to be a copycat of the Brussels bombings.
In the past, Erdogan and the Turkish government supported forces that were fighting in Syria, trying to topple its government during the early days of a civil war there. America also endorsed the opposition forces for awhile but eventually backed away from doing that.
What Turkey must do now
Turkey has many enemies, and reducing them should be a top priority.
A few months before last year’s parliamentary election, Erdogan criticized the peace talks with Kurdish separatists. As a result, government leaders left the table and terrorist attacks picked up again, often aimed at security forces.
Today, the Turkish army is clashing with the PKK in several cities.
Internationally, Turkish foreign policy has been a mess in recent years.
The country has had diplomatic troubles with Israel after that country six years ago raided a flotilla in the Mediterranean Sea; it had been carrying humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. Nine Turkish people were killed.
In a step forward, Turkey and Israel this week reached a new accord aimed at improving the countries’ relationship.
Turkey’s diplomatic problems with Russia escalated seven months ago when the Turkish air force shot down a Russian jet. This week, before the airport bombings, Erdogan expressed “regret” over the incident in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin. These are important diplomatic steps for Turkey.
How America can help
About 20 days ago, Turkish and American intelligence units reportedly warned the Turkish government about a potential attack by ISIS.
However, Tuesday’s brutal bombings showed that the countries need even better collaboration when it comes to ISIS.
It’s encouraging that U.S.-led coalition forces have had success in recent months taking back territory once claimed by ISIS.
However, those victories haven’t been enough to stop terrorist attacks.
ISIS remains determined to strike fear in the hearts of people around the world. Military strikes combined with far better intelligence about ISIS activities can reduce, but not eliminate, the group’s abilities to take innocent lives.