Turkey’s fight against terror and KSA support

Updated 31 July 2015
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Turkey’s fight against terror and KSA support

Turkey's airstrikes against the terrorists of Daesh has been decisive and by many accounts devastating. It mirrors the operation against terrorists in Yemen led by the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia has backed Turkey’s action.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman to discuss the Turkish military operation against Daesh. King Salman has said terrorist organizations are working to destabilize the region’s security and supported Turkey’s right to protect its people. This shows the Kingdom's keenness to fight terror. Saudi Arabia has been a victim of terrorism and has mounted a vigorous drive to fight terror groups.
Now Turkish warplanes are in the skies along with those of America and its Arab allies. Daesh already faces serious problems. It cannot move large concentrations of fighters without risking attack. Whether by day or night, it is open to airstrikes. Its communications are monitored around the clock. On the ground its thugs can still butcher and terrify captured populations. But slowly and steadily its ability to spread its evil is being undermined.
However, until now, there had been one key piece missing from the campaign. Turkey was reluctant to complete the encirclement. President Erdogan and his government wanted international action against Bashar Assad and his murderous regime in Damascus. Some in the international community chose to see the rise of Daesh as a way of ending the Syrian government’s campaign to crush its own people. Assad had actually encouraged Daesh in the correct expectation that it would turn on its fellow fighters in the Free Syrian Army. Thus for a long time, the terrorists were able to move back and forth across the 900-kilometer Turkish-Syrian border. Terror networks organized a regular flow of recruits and supplies.
The suicide bombing in Suruc last week changed everything. The outrage killed 32 young Turks. It was a direct challenge to Ankara. It was supposed to be a warning that Turkey should leave the Daesh terrorists alone. But the terrorist leaders miscalculated. Turkish patience was not opened-ended. Daesh has now discovered this to its cost.
Turkish security forces have arrested hundreds of Daesh operatives in Istanbul and at key transit points across the country. Security along the land frontier is being strengthened with thousands of extra troops deployed. Border security at ports and airports has been tightened. It will now be very hard for Daesh recruits to use Turkey as a staging post on their way to Syria. Moreover, Turkey and Washington are to create a safe zone within Syria. This will form a haven for refugees fleeing the fighting, not least the brutal attacks of Daesh.
What is significant is that Turkey has been given the unequivocal backing of its NATO partners. It is the alliance's only Muslim member. This week it called an extraordinary meeting of the organization in Brussels. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said that the 28 member countries strongly condemned the terrorist attacks and stood in solidarity with Turkey.
Ankara could have requested physical support. But with the second largest army in NATO after the US, Turkey needs little in the way of assistance. It is likely that special units and advanced monitoring equipment from other members may be deployed. But Turkey’s disciplined partly conscript armed forces are well-equipped and highly motivated.
An equally significant move is Turkey’s agreement to allow US warplanes to operate from the Incirlik Air Base. By operating from air fields closer to Daesh territory, Turkish and American aircraft are better able to hit “targets of opportunity.” Until now some of the missions flown against Daesh have been patrols, which if no targets are found, have returned to base with their weapons. NATO’s endorsement of Turkey’s aerial campaign specifically used the word “terrorism.”
This also embraces the Turkish airstrikes on the Kurdish separatist PKK camps in Iraq, following PKK attacks on Turkish troops. Erdogan has said that these assaults mean that peace negotiations with the PKK are “dead in the water.” NATO as a whole is clearly uneasy.
Erdogan’s more pressing concern has to be that the PKK is trying to take advantage of the emergency created by Daesh. It would be nonsensical to fight one terrorist menace while leaving another free to operate at will. Indeed from a strategic point of view this would be madness. In the face of massive Turkish airstrikes, the ideal outcome would be for the PKK to realize their error and resume the cease-fire and the talks.


EDITORIAL: Jeddah floods a reminder of why we need the anti-corruption drive

Saudi drivers take a flooded street in Jeddah on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 22 November 2017
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EDITORIAL: Jeddah floods a reminder of why we need the anti-corruption drive

It has happened again. The roads, streets and many underpasses in Jeddah were flooded with rainwater on Tuesday. Many areas were turned into lakes because of the heavy, though forecast, downpour. In some areas, water was knee-deep while in others it was chest-deep. People were stuck in their vehicles and many were seen pushing their vehicles to the side of the roads with great difficulty. In low-lying areas, citizens struggled to remove their belongings from flooded houses.

For the residents of Jeddah, rain has, more often than not, brought trouble and devastation. Whenever the skies open up, thoughts go back to that “Black Wednesday” of November 25, 2009, when more than 100 people lost their lives and property worth billions of riyals was destroyed. An investigation was opened into the disaster and some of the guilty were taken to court and tried; some of the small fry were even jailed. As has been the case in the past, the mighty arm of the law could barely touch those at the top who enjoyed immunity from prosecution.

And so it was business as usual until the rain began to wreak havoc again, reminding us that the laws of nature take their course and that hiding your head in the sand does not chase the clouds away.

Having said that, it must be admitted that, yes, lessons were learned. A disaster management team was set up. The weather forecast department became active in issuing alerts. In fact, Tuesday could have been far worse had it not been for the timely alert from the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME) and a prompt decision by the Ministry of Education to suspend classes, schools and universities in and around Jeddah. That helped in keeping people and vehicles off the streets. At noon on Tuesday, it looked as if the city were under some kind of curfew.

The questions that are on everyone's minds right now are: Why is it that rain renders the city helpless and immobile at this time every year? Why have efforts to create effective rainwater drainage systems not borne fruit despite pumping billions of riyals into new projects such as dams and canals? Why is it that the authorities are found wanting whenever heavy rain occurs? More importantly, what is the solution?

Here is the answer. These floods are a stark reminder of why the current drive against corruption is so essential. It is required in order to instill the fear of law into high-ranking officials and heads of construction companies and civic bodies who have failed in their responsibilities. Those who have cut corners and have pocketed public money, those who have not delivered on the projects and who have provided substandard services must pay for their sins of omission.

This is exactly what is happening. No one is above the law. The guilty, whoever they are, however high up they are, will have to pay — and they are. In this new era of transparency and accountability — initiated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — word has gone down from top to bottom that no one is immune. If you are guilty you will be punished. Those responsible for the havoc of the floods on Tuesday will have no rest either.