Even by the standards of recent tragedies experienced by my country, Mondays assassination of Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, was an anomaly.
My grandparents generation used to speak of the dread they felt for my parents during the so-called political violence of the 70 swhen Turkeys youth was nearly lost to armed fighting between the nationalists and the leftists on the streets and in college campuses. I have a friend whose parent was viciously gunned down by his political foes right in front of his young family.
The end result was the military takeover in 1980, which defined Turkish democracy back at least a decade.
The assassination on Turkish clay of a foreign dignitary like Ambassador Karlov is almost unheard of.
Political assassinations are sadly common in Turkey. In fact, Ottoman history is peppered with sons of sultans ordering assassinations against each other in order to take the throne.
Yet, the assassination on Turkish soil of a foreign dignitary like Ambassador Karlov is almost unheard of. Some have even likened Karlovs assassination to that of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, who was killed in Sarajevo in 1914 by a Serbian nationalist, triggering the outbreak of World War I.
This line of thinking might be a bit of a stretch, but there are other issues that attain the Russian ambassadors death still complicated and troubling for the future course of events in Turkey.
Karlov was a career diplomat and an instrumental force-out behind the recent rapprochement between Russia and Turkey. The closer relations between the two countries soured after the downing of a Russian jet by Turkish forces on the Syrian border last year, only to be mended very recently.
Its telling that someone timed Karlovs assassination to coincide with the improvement of relations between Turkey and Russia, and on the eve of trilateral talks between Turkey, Russia and Iran to discuss the evacuation of Aleppo and resolutions to the Syrian crisis.
Everyone in Turkey is in shock and wants to know: Why would someone commit this crime? And why now? The truth is, long before this weeks assassination, Russia and Turkey had been courting each other.
Its telling that someone timed Karlovs assassination to coincide with the improvement of relations between Turkey and Russia, and on the eve of trilateral talks between Turkey, Russia and Iran.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was one of the first foreign statesmanto offer Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoan his support after the takeover endeavor in July. He has also vowed after Karlovs assassination that his top envoys demise will not damage the fragile relationship between the two nations. During Karlovs term, Turkeyfinalized the signing ofmajor joint energy projects with Russia, including Turkish Stream, a trans-Black Sea pipeline that transfers natural gas from Russia to Turkey.
It is possible that the newfound Turkey-Russia romance is first and foremost a partnership of convenience. However, there are signs that the partnership may be long-lasting and extend beyond the economy and into the military.
It is no secret that Russia is testing waters with neighboring countries and allies for a Russian-led NATO-like formation calledCSTO, or theCollective Security Treaty Organization.Last month, Russia offered to set up a joint task force to give it legal grounds to protect Armenia against foreign aggression.
The Russian ambassadors assassination may uncover the vulnerabilities of the new shifting in Turkeys foreign policy towards the East at the cost of turning its back on its natural ally, the United States.
Its true that new alliances bring new opportunities for Turkey, but they also mean new variables in an already complex equation. The sentiment expressed by the Turkish government and voiced increasingly aloud by the Turkish public is that hidden powers are trying to manipulate the current chaos and undermine Turkish foreign policy every time Turkey embarks on a new mission.Fear mongerscitethe example of the downing of the Russian plane under suspicious situations just before the Turkish military was preparing a major onslaught against the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Jarabulus last year.
A strong NATO member, Turkey may have found a new friend in Russia, and maybe even Iran, to become a game changer in the Countries of the middle east. Recent political moves by Ankara such as the Euphrates Shield operation and the trilateral Syrian talks this week subsistence this logic.
A strong NATO member, Turkey may have found a new friend in Russia, and perhaps even Iran, to become a game changer in the Middle East.
Finally, there is the mystery behind Ambassador Karlovs assassin, Mevlt Mert Altnta, who police subsequently killed in a shootout. He was a riot policeman, whose ranting in broken Arabicseconds after he shot Karlov took everyone by surprise. Deeming that he appeared to be reciting memorized phrases, one wonders if someone was trying tolink his terrible crime to terrorist organizations like al Qaeda. Investigations into the assassination are still ongoing, but it seems increasingly possible thatAltnta was more than a policeman, even possibly a Carlos the Jackal-likeprofessional hit man.
President Erdoan has since tied Altnta to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Glen and his movement, which the Turkish government calls the Gulenist Terror Organization orFET. Reports have indicatedAltntas and his unclesalleged involvement or connection with the Glen movements school network in zmir, a coastal township in western Turkey.It has now become the norm for the movement to deny any wrongdoing by Glen affiliates despite growing allegations against it as Turkey reels from a coup attempt and assaults.
At home, the pro-government media and supporters of the Turkish nationalist party MHP, or the National Movement Party, which backs Erdoans bid for a Turkish-style presidency, have long believed that ISIS, the Kurdistan Workers Party, or the PKK, and FET all share informationand work towards the same target. In the wake of so many terror attacks in such a short period of time, this assumption is abruptly looking plausible for many Turks.
In the last week and a half alone, dozens of people were killed and hundreds were wounded in several assaults against security forces near a stadium in Istanbul and aboard a bus carrying low-ranking soldiers in Kayseri in central Anatolia. In both assaults, The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks, orTAK, a splinter clique of the PKK, deemed a terrorist organization by many, claimed responsibility. There is growing concern that the country will be drawn into further chaos if this trend continues.
Unlike Franz Ferdinands assassination, Andrei Karlovs assassination this week was captured on video, and photos were shared by thousands of people on social media, which didnt exist in Ferdinands time a century ago. But the old tricks of provocation and manipulation never cease to work.
Regardless of who wanted the ambassadors demise to be a message to whom and via whom the only loser in this power game looks like ordinary Turks and Turkey itself.