“Although the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — ISIS or the Islamic State (IS), as it calls itself today — is not considered in Turkey an al-Qaeda-affiliated group, they are all part of the same network and none should be identified as Sunni,” said Professor Hilmi Demir of the Hitit University Religious Studies department, in a conversation with Al-Monitor. Demir, also a scientific adviser to the 21st Century Turkey Institute, an Ankara-based think tank, said these terror groups also pose a serious threat to the Sunni population in the region, in addition to the Shiites and minorities. To him, these groups should be defined as “Salafist-jihadists” and the Sunni label was misused in this context, only to specify non-Shiite.
With that, Demir challenged Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s assertion that the IS militants and the Syrian regime have been in a partnership. Explaining that the IS was initially formed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who in October 2004 swore loyalty to the late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Demir suggested that either Davutoglu reached his conclusion through the converging interests that emerged momentarily between the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the IS militants without analyzing their core differences, or he simply exaggerated Assad’s ability to control these groups.