Was the Russian passenger plane downed by ISIL? - MERVE ŞEBNEM ORUÇ

Was the Russian passenger plane downed by ISIL?

Setting up a game, being a player and even reading the game in the Middle East's idiosyncratic chaos. Just as you think “everything is over,” an unexpected retaliation happens and you think, “the real game is just starting.” Plans on paper may backfire. In this region, the players you take lightly may display unexpected resilience, super powers believed to be indestructible may be defeated. A move made at a certain point may be responded to in a different place.

Russia's increased military presence in the west of Syria at the end of summer, was a critical variable in terms of the chaotic balances in the region. With Russian fighter jets beginning airstrikes under the pretext of fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as a life line support for the Assad regime that is stuck in a tight corner, the analyses made after it targeted ISIL as well as opposition groups, it seemed like the situation on the ground had taken a turn in favor of Bashar Assad. The regime that was stuck into a corner despite support from Hezbollah and Iran, was partially relieved with Russia's help, yet the regime and its supporters continue to make great losses in the clashes. In other words, Russia's move, reflected as a “game changer,” is not enough to make the game permanent. Although opposition forces are obliged to clash with ISIS and the regime in various regions, the regime is yet to achieve superiority in the field. In summary, things aren't going as planned.

On the other hand, although not yet confirmed, claims that a bomb was planted in the Russian passenger plane, which departed from Egypt's Sharm al-Sheikh city and believed to fall after exploding in air over the Sinai peninsula on its way to Russia's St. Petersburg city, leads to suspicions of a retaliation. So, it could be that Russia received a response to the game it set in Syria within the borders of another country. While both Russia and Egypt was quick to claim in the beginning that the downing of the plane was a terrorist attack, gradually, they too are reaching this conclusion.

The possibility that ISIL was behind the tragedy that resulted in the death of 224 people has started a crisis with many flight companies canceling flights or changing their flight route. In addition to the material damage it caused, there is a risk of diplomatic crisis with the international talks that include both U.S. President Barack Obama and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. However, beyond all this, this incident is significant in terms of showing that fighting ISIL is not as simple as entering Syria and conducting random bombings, that unless the matter is taken in hand meticulously, it could backfire unexpectedly, and this fight will not be successful unless it is assessed in all geopolitical aspects.

If organizations such as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in Sinai, which has declared allegiance to ISIL, are behind this falling of the plane, it appears that it might be difficult for Russia to carry out its plans in Syria without paying a price. If the plane fell as a result of the detonation of a bomb inside the aircraft, it could be concluded that Egypt's security vulnerability is not limited to Sinai alone. Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and his administration, which, following its coup in 2013, announced the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and labeled everyone anti-coup, whether part of the movement or not, a terrorist, and killed thousands while putting behind bars more than 40,000 people, is making it seem as though the ISIL-affiliated organizations in Sinai are acting in cooperation with the Muslim Brotherhood, claiming they have the region under control, this discourse does not reflect the truth. Making no differentiation between the moderates, traditionalists and extremists, the Sisi regime is playing into the hands of terrorist organizations.

If ISIL is behind that downing of the plane, the terrorist organization may carried out this attack to hit two birds with one stone and wanted to retaliate Russia's airstrikes in Syria as well as Egypt's airstrikes in February on its affiliated groups in Libya.

ISIL's strongest presence and support in Libya is found around Sirte, the birthplace of Moammar Gadhafi. Libya's tribal structure is a result of the continued loyalty of those living in the region to Gadhafi and his relatives. However, ISIL's power and support here brings to mind the question “Why?” and its answer. The popular opinion in Tripoli and Misurata regarding ISIL's import to Libya is through Gadhafi's cousin Ahmad Gadhaf al-Dam, who fled to Egypt, with the support of Muhammad Dahlan sponsored by the UAE. It is said that Ahmad Gadhaf confessed to this in a statement he made on Egyptian television.

Those who invited ISIL to their territory to revive the old regime in Libya and continue their witch hunt against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, who left nothing between the old regime and terror and accused everyone who refused to accept their authority as terrorists, are eventually becoming the targets of these organizations. The same is valid for Russia. Russia is “encouraging [the Chechens and Dagestanis, which it believes are potential threats to its interests] to join the jihad in Syria” so it can then hunt them here, but is finding an unexpected response. In the end, as long as problems that can be solved through honest and realistic policies are made complex and manipulated for personal interests, they are spreading further and burning those who set the game.


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