Islamic State oil is being more or less freely smuggled into Turkey, while foreign Jihadists are moving unhindered through Turkey into Iraq and Syria to join IS.

Kurds, however, are being prevented from moving through Turkey under any circumstances, Humanitarian or otherwise.

Are Erdogan and his party covert Islamic State sympathizers?

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    @LateralFractal Insider sources could certainly substantiate the claim, for example.
    – John Woo
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 8:06
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    @AffableGeek This is not a rant because I am not trying to prove that Erdogan is more hostile towards the Kurds than IS; that is simply a fact. I want to get people's best guess on what Erdogan's long term plans are. Does he want Turkey to be hegemon of a large swath of Sunni Islamist states, and could IS have a role there? Or is he just using IS to get to the Kurds so he can clean them up later, and turn back to enriching his country doing good secular business with the EU, Atatürk style?
    – John Woo
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 9:03
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    Is there a good reason for the downvote? Erdogan's Turkey isn't doing a lot about ISIS, and I am looking for educated guesses around his motivations. Legitimate enough for you?
    – John Woo
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 11:46
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    @lateral fractal I am starting to get seriously offended by the repeated slandering if Lizard people
    – user4012
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 12:32
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    @YannisRizos Here's a particularly damning one, since apparently IS fighters got treatment in Turkish hospitals, while Kurds were left to die at the border. nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/10/14/…
    – John Woo
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 14:07

2 Answers 2


I can't say if they are supporting them but they have some common interest.

First, I need to say that states, unlike individuals like you and me, do not have feelings. They have a strategy (usually) and they stick to it. Ethics is not very important. Turkey is simply doing what they think is in their best interests. Their interest is simply self preservation.

My first thought was that ISIS was a threat to Turkey and that they should do something about it. Apparently it isn't. This might change in the future, but for now, the Kurds are more threatening than ISIS for Turkey. There is between 15 to 20% of Kurds in Turkey. Kurds are also a minority in Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Despite the large number of Kurds in the region, they don't have a country. Some groups like the PKK are considered enemies of the Turkish government because they want an independent Kurdistan. Not all Kurdish movements are violent but this uses violence.

South of the Turkish border, there is now an independent Kurdistan in Iraq and Syria (defacto). They are not recognized as independent but Syria and Iraq can't do anything about it right now, so they are considered independent for now. Turkey does not like that. They don't want to have Kurds going south to secure that Kurdish state. They want to avoid doing something that might make the Kurds more threatening inside their own borders or outside.

As for the oil, all countries need oil. Some will buy it from IS like we buy our oil from Saudi Arabia and most of us don't really feel bad about it. Some people are comparing Saudi Arabia to the Islamic state. Saudi Arabian applies a strict sharia that gives very little rights to women. They had several executions in the last weeks. Granted, they don't kill as many people as IS but they act the same way. We consider some countries as allies and some as enemies according to our interests.

To sum it up, no they are not sympathizer of the Islamic State. They are mostly neutral toward them.

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    I think you are making a logical error; your assumption that states never have a normative process that goes beyond self preservation does not prove that this is true for Turkey. I for one would disagree; things like national identity and history are strong forces and place strong limits on what states can and cannot do strategically, and even on what they want to do. This is the point of the question: What does Erdogan want? Does he want to create a Sunni Theocracy and have IS as an ally, or is he simply using IS to get the Kurds so he can clean them up later?
    – John Woo
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 8:57
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    Turkey gave access to its airspace and bases to the US forces fighting IS. You might say that they aren't doing everything they can, but you can't say they aren't doing anything at all.
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 11:10
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    @YannisRizos I don't know about the airspace, but Turkey certainly did not give access to its bases. Susan Rice claimed that, but Turkey promptly denied.
    – John Woo
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 12:43
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    I don't think that Erdogan wants to create a religious state and I'm not sure why you think this could happen.
    – Vincent
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 14:45
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    @Relaxed The aggregate is not irrelevant, it shows that Turkey is shockingly cozy with ISIS. It's not silly to consider Erdogan is an Islamist, merely to conclude prematurely. I'm looking for some insight into Turkey's long term strategic goals, of which ISIS seems to be a part of (you don't let the World's most wanted terrorists frolic on your soil for tactics). Platitudes like "Business as usual" and "countries don't have feelings" are great at making you look like an aloof expert, but how about actually sharing the reasoning in detail? If Erdogan is clearly no Islamist, why not?
    – John Woo
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 11:37

According to the Soufan Group, Turkey has in fact up until the recent attack on Sucuk tolerated rather than supported the Islamic state, by keeping their borders open to IS reinforcements and recruits, turning a blind eye towards IS recruitment activity within Turkey, and allowing the sale of IS oil, and preventing the U.S. from attacking them from their air bases.

The reasons are (a) the belief that IS would not attack within Turkey because Turkey is mainly Sunni, and (b) that they were useful for fighting Bashar al Assad's Alawite (on offshoot of Shia) regime.

Interpreting this information myself, hurting the Kurds appears to have been more a desirable side effect rather than the main reason for helping IS. Turkey's fear of Assad would suggest their main worry is Shia influence, and, to that effect, Iran.

This strategy now imploded, as IS mainly fought other rebels in Syria, and now Turkey itself.


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