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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How genuine are Turkey’s and Saudi Arabia’s motives regarding ISIL?

While I am a supporter of the prime minister’s plan for Canada to join the U.S.-led international coalition against the Islamic State—commonly known as ISIL or ISIS—the irony of the mission is not lost on me.

I don’t know whether or not PM Stephen Harper’s plan to take us to war is simply a matter of crass politics and, at this point, I really do not care. I do, however, question the purity of motives of other members of the coalition because two nations in particular—Turkey and Saudi Arabia—have dubious agendas, or so it seems to me.

Turkey has joined the campaign against ISIL, without specifying what it will do. This should be good news for those Canadians who see ISIL as an evil scourge for Turkey is a NATO ally that shares the longest borders with Iraq and Syria and has the second largest army of all NATO members.

Common sense, however, dictates we question and assess Turkey’s motives. While Turkish officials have said they will assist in the fight, given Turkey’s past history of allowing the crossing of Islamist extremists into Syria, Kurds—our primary allies on the ground in Iraq and Syria—are understandably suspicious of its true intentions. Some say Turkey views the semi-autonomous Kurdish region on the Syrian side of its border as a greater threat than ISIL, and suspect that Turkey’s hidden agenda includes stemming the growing importance of Kurdish involvement in the coalition.

Turkey is, of course, loath to see Kurdish independence hopes—at home in Turkey, in Iraq or in Syria—encouraged in any way. This seems to be of overriding concern and will inform Turkey’s role in the anti-ISIL coalition, even to the point of impairing the coalition’s effectiveness in containing the ISIL threat.

This brings me to another coalition member with a similarly dubious agenda, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia’s ultraconservative brand of Islam, Wahhabi Islam, shares much with the purist Salafi ideology of ISIL. ISIL also shares the extreme anti-Shia sentiment so prevalent in Saudi Arabia.

Wahhabi Salafism is the state religion of Saudi Arabia and, under the guise of religious education, this oil-rich state has spent millions of dollars in public and private money to spread Wahhabi Salafism widely in the Middle East and across Western nations.

How ironic is it that the nation that is one of the main proponents of ultraconservative, purist Islam is a member of a military coalition that is intent on destroying the most zealous adherents of its religious ideology?

Let’s be thankful that Saudi Arabia is playing only a small part in the air campaign because, frankly, I’m not sure what side these Arabs are really on.

Politics—and war—do indeed make strange bedfellows.

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