tv Ali Velshi on Target Al Jazeera November 17, 2015 6:30am-7:01am EST
>> reporter: he says the doctors haven't just given him a new face, he now has a new life. o'brien, al jazeera. and you can keep up to date with all the news on our website, al jazeera.com. >> "on target" tonight, the new nexus for the fight against i.s.i.l, turkey is the exit point for radicalized fighters going into syria. it's the exit point of hoards, it is the only muslim ally in nato. it could hold the key to i.s.i.l. defeat. i'm "ali velshi on target" right now.
a special edition of tooght. we are talkin"ontarget." this is all about the u.s. led coalition to defeat i.s.i.l, and the role that turkey has in that coalition. it is the key role turkey shares a massive border with syria and iraq. it is a place where fighters come from europe. through turkey into syria and a place where the refugees flee from syria into turkey. let me show you why this is such an important nexus point between here and the u.s. i.s.i.l. fighters go through turkey, sometimes going into istanbul, going down to southern turkey and make their way into syria and iraq. millions of refugees flee through those same borders through turkey, some of them stay here, some go on to europe. president obama is in turkey today.
he spoke in the turkish coastal city of antalia. having one of their regular meetings, the president today defended the coalition strategy of air strikes. here's some of what president obama said. >> even as we grief with our french friends, however, we can't lose sight that there has been progress being made. on the military front, or coalition is intensifying our air strikes, more than 8,000 to date. we're taking out i.s.i.l. leaders. commanders. their killers. we have seen that when we have an effective partner on the ground, i.s.i.l. can, and is, pushed back. >> but the progress that president obama talks about is relevant. relative. let me show you how and why on this map. i.s.i.l. still controls significant territory.
the red section of this map shows i.s.i.l. held land in syria and iraq. bombed i.s.i.l. stronghold city of raqqa in northern syria, that is i.s.i.l.'s headquarters if you will. the french forces launched those attacks from bases in jordan and the united arab emirates. the are coalition base they are using in that country. and in qatar and turkey. turkey opened its air base he including the incirlik air base in july and in august turkey itself joined that coalition launching the first air strikes against i.s.i.l. in syria. in july a suicide blast that authorities here blame on i.s.i.l. killed 32 people in southern turkey. that same month authorities say that i.s.i.l. attacked soldiers in southern turkey killing one soldier. but then in october in turkey's
capital, ankara, a bomb went off killing 100 people. that is one of the deadliest attacks in turkish history. that is creating all sorts of new tensions in turkey particularly because of its relations with syria. joining me is andre barker, director of woodrow wilson center for scholars. syria's predicament is his book. that seems to be the most apt title for anything to do with turkey or syria today, turkey's predicament. turkey had a syria predicament because they had a native kurdish population that wanted its own state but now it's got a major problem that it is fighting the assad regime, it is fighting the kurds in turkey, and goes refugees up to 2 million of them who have come in through borders of the south of
this country into turkey problems. what is turkey supposed to be doing about this? >> well, the turks have always wanted two things. one for assad to go and secondly for the syrian kurds not to expand their territory, not to get awe tom m autonomy in syria. they are a vital component for the united states of the fight against i.s.i.s. the kurds in syria are the most reliable and most effective ally against i.s.i.s. because they know how to fight and they have taken territory away from i.s.i.s. in syria. and the turk turks in that sense at odds with america, i.s.i.s. is the third priority for turkey. despite the bombings which you
mentioned which really caused an enormous amount of damage, the curds in syria and not i.s.i.s. as much. >> as you said i.s.i.l. might be the third concern for turkey after thing refugees and the curds. kurds but that's the kind of thing that elevates the problem into the national consciousness. what does turkey do then presuming there is i.s.i.s. sympathizers in turkey, presuming that i.s.i.s. does want to attack turkey, part of their mission, it will come to istanbul, the last place where there was a muslin caliph. is there something that turkey should be doing you now to try to get into a better position to fight i.s.i.s? >> well, the two things it needs to do, one is to completely seal the borders so there is no oil that comes, that needs i.s.i.s. revenues. and no fighters ask go in and
out of syria. i.s.i.s. fighters. but most importantly, until now, the turkish police forces have been concentrating on kurds, they are more worried about journalists, three have been jailing more journalists and essentially i.s.i.s. people. so in effect what they really need to do is completely put their focus on i.s.i.s. cells and the i.s.i.s. infrastructure. because as the french found out, this infrastructure is bureaud deep into society into certain communities and it is very, very difficult to identify and deal with them. but that really requires k a, intelligent cooperation with the united states and europeans, it requires enormous amount of resources to be focused on that. and whether or not the be turkish government is willing to do that is still, the jury's still out on this. i'm not necessarily convinced
that they are willing to ve vest invest all those resources, but i.s.i.s. is a danger not just to turkey in the sense it will kill people but the turkish economy is very much a global economy. it depends on tourism, it depends on exports. it depends on the financial networks that it has with the rest of the world. if i.s.i.s. were to start launching a campaign, those things would be hurt and the turkish economy would be hurt. so it would be very prudent on the part of the government in turkey to be ahead of i.s.i.s, and be -- and to implement as many preventive measures as it can. you are in istanbul. you see how big that city is. it is an unmanageable, ungovernable city, and if it were to have problems, that people go into large shopping
malls, large gathering areas, so it is i mean the turks are very vulnerable. this is not a joke. >> yeah, this is a big city. some say as many as 17 million people metaphorically, physically and practically straddling europe and asia. there's nowhere in this city that you walk where there aren't dozens hundreds of thousands of people, markets bazaars shopping malls and tourists. tell me to the extent that the turks do seem preoccupied with kurdish nationalism, by the way it's been the problem with in syria, iraq, iran, all have kurdish nationalist populations. how big a problem has it been for turkey? it's been decades. isn't there some way that the turks can work out with the kurds who are not anywhere near the threat that i.s.i.l. is. >> correct. here is, i mean you mentioned four countries.
iran, iraq, syria and turkey. in three of those, in syria turkey and iraq the kurds are on the move. they have achieved essentially a modicum of in the case of iraq almost statehood, in the case of syria an autonomous region they control and they hope will solidify once assad is gone and in turkey, a great deal of political gains and a sense of identity and the turks need to do that. the turkish government to its credit did start negotiations with the kurds. but in many ways when the syrian conflict started the turkish government got scared and almost freaked out by the gains the syrian kurds were making. the problem from the turkish government perspective, very closely aligned with the turkish, kurdish movement the pkk, and while they were negotiating with
them, is considered a terrorist organization. so it was the growing influence of the pkk, especially in syria, that forced essentially mr. erdogan to kind of change policy and start change his tune on the peace process. and then once that bombing happened in southern turkey all bets were off. the two police officers were killed, supposedly by the pkk and this was the end of the peace process. and it remains to be seen whether the government will go back to the peace process. if you look what's hatching today in southeastern turkey in the predominantly kurdish areas you have many towns under curfew, where you have fighting, where you have tanks rolling through these very small kind of backward towns with lots of civilian casualties. so there's an ongoing i wouldn't say insurgency but conflict in the southeast. and turkey needs to start dealing with this.
they should go back to the peace pro. >> yes. >> they have already established that they can do it. and it now depends on whether or not the government feels that it can win over -- it can win outright, or it needs to negotiate. and i think it wants to win outright and that's a problem. >> henri barkey. thank you for joining us. we'll talk more about turkey's i.s.i.l. this is a special "on target" from istanbul. >> the only live national news show at 11:00 eastern. >> we start with breaking news. >> let's take a closer look.
>> welcome back. "on target" is in istanbul, turkey tonight. turkey is central to the fight against i.s.i.l. but it is also central to the refugee crisis. fighters come through parts of turkey to get through the porous border, through many of those same porous borders into turkey, this is a country that now has refugees. it is a new problem for turkey. turkey's got a decades-old problem though and that is with kurds who want to have their own austerity or at least a lot more autonomy inside. it is a complicated story and that is complicated by turkey's history. mary snow has that history. >> as world leaders at the
g20 summit concentrate on the paris attacks, turkey, only muslim country that is a member of nato. >> we have about 30,000 foreign fighters from more than 90 different countries. the greatest majority of them came through turkey. >> analysts say turkey has worked to seal its borders. what led to its situation is complex. turkey was once an ally of syria's president bashar al-assad. but those ties were broken after syria's assault on citizen protestors in 2011. as syria spiraled into civil war general wesley clark a former nato allied commander said that i.s.i.l. was in syria. >> i'm not saying they created i.s.i.s. but they were one of the countries that fed weapons
into the region and sought to mobilize extremist fires to go against iranian influence. and it was emergence of a frankenstein. >> and that frankenstein now is. about 100 people were killed in two boadges in bombings in ankara. and i.s.i.l. was suspected. turkey let u.s. use incirlik to strike against syria. >> the more access that turkey grants the united states and other coalition partners through its base he in turkey, like incirlik, then it can try to extract other concessions in other arenas. >> among the list of demands it says turkey wants to keep a check on kurdish rebels it opposes. some of the faction he have become partners with the u.s. in fighting i.s.i.l.
but in the wake of the paris attack pressure is building on turkey to do more and it was evident at the most recent presidential debate among democratic candidates. >> in particular turkey and the gulf nations have got to make up their minds. are they going to stand with us against this kind of jihadi rad cammism or not? >> turkey has other demands from the west namely creating a safe zone along the turkey border for refugees. turkey is now providing shelter for nearly 2 million refugees. while others are finding their way into europe through turkey. the battlefield grows more crowded and complex. adding for the challenge of turkey is the entrance of russia which is at odds with turkey over syria's president. mary snow, al jazeera. >> andrew fink
el, wrote a being book turkey what everyone needs to know. let's start there, what do people need to know about turkey? >> the biggest economy in the region, very strategically placed, they need to know there's a strong man government here which pretty much does what it wants. >> in fact in terms of press freedoms, turkey a country that straddles the east and the west, it's really a place where you feel boast asia and western but in terms of press freedoms, it is close to the bottom of the list in the world. >> that's right. it's the one european nation which freedom house has declared not to have a free press. the government monitors very closely what's said, it tries to control its own domestic press and it basically puts pressure on dissident press to toe the line. >> and that's something we can do an entire show on, but what this has meant to tell us is
that turkey is a complicated place in this battle against terrorism, complicated place of the battle against i.s.i.l. in theory it is a member of nato, as mary told us a western-facing country that in the last several years has really started to face more eastward and it's sort of unclear of its position vis-a-vis what's going on in syria and iraq. >> it has this very powerful government, the government of the president recep tayyip erdogan, it wants to consolidate power, to pursue an independent foreign policy but they've gotten into terrible trouble with this foreign policy, they have been banking on the fall of bashar al-assad ever since the war in syria standarded and of course that hasn't happened. and of course this has been very embarrassing to turkey which essentially has been supporting forces who, on the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. >> that's sort of a pattern
that's playing out throughout the middle east, it's unclear who's on whose side but from a western perspective when the west looks at turkey they see a nato member, they see a base and turkey independently pursuing attacks on syria and on the kurds is who have been western allies in fighting i.s.i.l. >> well that's right. turkey probably regards the syrian kurds who are allied with rebel turkish kurds this despite the fact that i.s.i.l. had detonated a bomb in ankara on the 10th of october who killed over 100 people and perhaps that perception is changing. >> when it comes to threats and i.s.i.l. and terrorism, the west is the view either you're with us or against us. hillary clinton in mary snow's piece, said that just this weekend. how does that play in turkey, where is turkey with us or
against us? >> it depends who us is. but i think turkey would say that u.s. interests u.s. foreign policy is also very confused in the middle east. starting with iraq and finishing with syria is not exactly clear that europe and the west knows precisely what it's doing in these very difficult parts of the region so the fact that turkey doesn't know what it's doing may not be such a shocking accusation but of course from the turkish perspective there are many interests that it's trying to play off against each other and i.s.i.l. is one of the problems, perhaps one it can overlook for a while but now it can't overlook, and the world is abbreviating down it's neck and i.s.i.s. is active in turkey itself. >> as we discussed we talked about these refugees living here in istanbul, probably about 300,000 of them. just this morning i had a chance
struggles, their hardships and their triumphs. >> it gives me a lot of pride. >> our american story is written everyday. it's not always pretty, but it's real... and we show you like no-one else can. this is our american story. this is america tonight. target." 9:30 eastern. >> welcome back to toorgts. we are i"on target."we are in il tonight. come through porous borders into turkey, work their way through, even to cities like this. there are probably more than 2 million refugees, in all of turkey, about 300,000 here in istanbul. for the first 9 months of this year, more than 248,000 syrians have passed through turkey on the way to the european union. but not everyone uses turkey as a transit point. many of them are actually settling here.
as i said, maybe 2 million syrian refugees in this country, in 2 20 refugee camps set up across the nation. the vast majority of the refugees have moved into turved turkish cities. istanbul has the biggest. i took a walk around an area only could be described as a slum. i met a man, on foot and by car they made their way through syria all the way to istanbul where they are now. here's his story. >> translator: we left against our will. of course we came here to turkey, to raise these children away from the fighting and away from the war. we came here, and the children started to work and help us survive here. it's not much. but at least here in turkey we are getting by now. it's better than the fighting. i mean there are rockets and
mortars raining on you for no reason and people are dying. you don't know which side is doing what. it became so bad we had to flee. we took to the road, sometimes by foot sometimes by car until we reached the border. thank god we are living and getting by here. there's no fighting and no killing here. >> does the turkish government give you refugee status? >> we smuggled ourselves into turkey without permission. we came here and they gave me identity papers that show we are transiting the company and nothing more. we are not registered. those who get registered have to go to the refugee camp and we don't want to stay in the camp. the most important is to get away from the killing. i want one request from his excellency president erdogan, we are renting this place. he should pay us a little more. if we have children who can work so we help each other out. do you think we like living in such humiliation?
there are people here who are going out and begging in public and by doing so they bring humiliation on us all. i now have my elderly wife who is sick and she needs 500 or 600 liras for testing. i don't have that kind of money. i've left her in that state. these are normal things but we are syrian refugees and there's nothing for us. >> and that's our show for tonight. i'm ali velshi in istanbul. we'll have more from istanbul tomorrow might but right now the news continues on al jazeera america.
♪ no one will interrupt the business of the global community. >> partners in fighting i.s.i.l. developing overnight secretary of state john kerry and france's president talking strategy and more raids and air strikes are being carried out. >> this is to be prudent to make sure a terrorist element is not in the country. >> fleeing war are not welcome in the state. it was a bomb, the kremlin confirming what caused the jet to crash in the skies of egypt. >> severe storms moving across texas right now, tornados threatens the plains as snow piles up in the