The war on terror may open a Turkish front
Two bombings in Istanbul Saturday killed at least 23 people and wounded hundreds more.
As investigators continue to sift for clues through the rubble at the sites of Saturday's truck-bomb attacks on two Istanbul synagogues, Turkey is being forced to confront what may be a harsh new reality.Skip to next paragraph
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With Turkish officials strongly suggesting that the sophisticated attacks were organized by an international terrorist organization, possibly Al Qaeda, the country could find itself becoming another front in the war on terrorism. That could push Turkey into even closer cooperation with the US and Israel, analysts say - as well as widen Turkey's Islamic-secular divide.
"Turkey has faced terrorist acts in the past, but they were either ethnic, like the [Kurdish separatist group] PKK, or extreme ideological groups from the left or right. This appears to be part of the international terror campaign, and it is something different," says Sami Kohen, a political analyst and columnist with the Turkish daily Milliyet.
Saturday's attacks at the temples, which are about three miles apart, killed at least 23 people, most of them Muslim passersby, and wounded more than 300.
It was the second attack on Neve Shalom, Istanbul's largest synagogue, where gunmen suspected of being associated with Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal killed 22 people in 1986. The Turkish daily Radikal reported that the Israeli intelligence service Mossad had warned Turkish intelligence units twice, most recently in September, about attack plans.
. If this latest strike is connected to Islamic extremists trying to destabilize the region and punish Turkey for its relationship with the US, it could change the public's attitude, says Ali Carkoglu, of Sabanci University in Istanbul.
"People on the street would be pushed toward a tougher Turkish policy in Iraq," he says. "They would not use this as an excuse to shy away from any active involvement in Iraq. So I don't think this would work towards pushing Turkey towards the margin of the conflict. It will work the other way."
US officials in Turkey are quick to say that the country has been an important ally in the US fight against terrorism, providing peacekeeping troops for Afghanistan, for example. But Ankara has been less supportive of the US war in Iraq.
Last March, the Turkish parliament failed to approve a US request to move its troops through Turkey into northern Iraq. Although the parliament recently approved sending Turkish troops to aid the US in Iraq - an offer quickly shelved because of Iraqi opposition - Turkish public opinion remains strongly opposed to the war.
Mr. Carkoglu and other analysts say the domestic implications from the two synagogue bombings could be more significant. The Justice and Development Party (AKP), a new political party that traces its roots to Turkey's political Islamic movement, currently rules Turkey. While the party's leaders have distanced themselves from their Islamist past, the country's secular establishment has remained suspicious.
Any involvement of Turkish Islamist groups in the attacks could intensify the simmering conflict between the AKP government the secularists, Carkoglu says. "If the secularists can show that there has been a linkage with a domestic pro-Islamist group that hasn't been properly followed or acted against, then the domestic implications could be very severe," he says.