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Did Ankara miss its chance to head off the Islamic State?

Turkey deeply misunderstood the Islamic State's potential and early alliances, and now faces a monster some say it fostered.
Fighters of al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant parade at the Syrian town of Tel Abyad, near the border with Turkey January 2, 2014. Picture taken January 2, 2014.  REUTERS/Yaser Al-Khodor (SYRIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT) - RTX170UO

“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.

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