Is the Islamic State trying to draw Turkey into Syria?


There is a duel going on in Turkey’s southern province of Kilis. Since the beginning of the year, forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have fired katyusha rockets into Kilis. The Turkish Armed Forces (Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri, TSK) have responded with artillery fire and airstrikes, reportedly killing at least 862 ISIL fighters this year. Still, rockets have landed in Kilis every day in May. According to a combination of data from Metin Gurcan and Aaron Stein, as of May 8, 21 people have been killed and at least 88 wounded on the Turkish side of the border this year. There is growing anger at the local and national government over the disruption to daily life. Simultaneously, ISIL released a statement that it will soon show the consequences for Turkish state actions in a video featuring a TSK soldier captured in July 2015. Both sides appear to be escalating their reactions, culminating on the night of May 8, with the Turkish military for the first time announcing it had conducted a ground incursion into Syria. According to the pro-government daily Yeni Şafak, 15 to 20 Turkish special forces units entered ISIL-controlled territory to target rocket launchers. The raid was followed by airstrikes from coalition forces and with the knowledge of the United States and Russia.

Why is ISIL picking a fight with Turkey? Does ISIL see its actions as a response to Turkish fire support to opposition forces fighting in northern Aleppo? Or are they a deliberate attempt to force an already strained Turkish military into a more involved and bloodier intervention in Syria? ISIL’s most recent propaganda directed at a Turkish audience may provide a clue to its strategic goals toward Turkey.

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ISIL’s Propaganda on Turkey 

Looking back at the different stages of Turkey-directed ISIL propaganda, the group appears to have been foreshadowing its plans than was previously apparent. This propaganda can be broken into three basic stages: informal (2013 through mid-2014), semi-official (early-2014 through mid-2015), and official (mid-2015 to present).

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