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BPC’s Nick Danforth: Syria’s Civil War Is Spilling Into Turkey’s Streets — And Art Galleries


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Following two deadly bomb attacks against Turkish security forces last week, the assassination of a Russian ambassador at an art gallery in Ankara on Monday revealed the extent to which Syria’s civil war has spilled over into Turkey.

Despite the inevitable Franz Ferdinand comparisons, Turkey and Russia have worked to prevent Monday’s shooting from escalating and undermining the two countries’ recently improved relations. But the shooting was nevertheless an ominous sign. While Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had long drawn Western criticism for his authoritarian rule, he had promised his country stability in exchange for granting him additional power. Increasingly, however, the risk is that the government’s authoritarian measures will prove incapable of stemming a rising tide of violent instability.

Monday’s shooting appears to have been carried out by an off-duty Turkish police officer who claimed to be avenging Russian war crimes against Muslims in Aleppo. Over the past several years, the Turkish government’s support for the radical Islamist fighters opposing Syria’s government has prevented it from addressing the risk posed by radicalization within its own police force. This, in turn, left the police unable or unwilling to effectively prevent a string of deadly ISIS attacks in Turkey over the past two years.