Before the blood even had a chance to dry in Ankara, a tragedy that was first and foremost a human tragedy, became a political one.
Andrey Gennadyevich Karlov is beyond a shadow of a doubt, a martyr in the wider war on terrorism. His service to his country, to Turkey, and to the peace process in Syria, was as important as that of any solider.
The fact that he was shot in the back in an art gallery, rather than the battle field, simply adds to the sadness of this whole affair.
Whilst many feared a geopolitical avalanche in the aftermath of the assassination, for now the worst seems to have been averted.
President Putin responded not with a declaration of war on Turkey – as some expected – but with a firm yet calm commitment to cooperate with the Turkish authorities in order
“…to know who organised this killing and gave orders to the assassin”.
Popular Russian opposition figure, LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky echoed the tone of cooperation. He recently visited Turkey and met privately with Turkish President Erdogan. Zhirinovsky said that Erdogan seeks to cooperate with Russia, and that this incident should not hinder progress between the two countries. Zhirinovsky added that there was a possibility Western intelligence agencies played a hand in masterminding the attack to avenge the defeat of the Western backed terrorists in Aleppo.
President Erdogan’s statement came after a phone call to President Putin. He said
“Both Turkey and Russia have the will not to be deceived by this provocation… All the security measures around the Russian embassy and consulate general have been tightened as we agreed with Mr. Putin”.
This was a far cry from the arrogant, grandstanding reaction of the Turkish leader in the aftermath of Turkey downing a Russian fighter jet in 2015.
The big difference is that whilst the downing of the Russian fighter in 2015 was an act of Turkish military aggression against Russia, the allegiance of Andrey Karlov’s assassin remains dubious, thought his intentions were clear.
The former Turkish police officer was said to have been sacked from his position in the aftermath of this summer’s failed coup attempt. Some have reported that the killer was loyal to Fethullah Gülen, the exiled Islamist ideologue who after falling out with Erdogan went into exile in the United States.
It is important to remember that Erdogan blamed the coup on Gülen’s followers and in the immediate aftermath of the coup implicitly implicated the United States in the attempt to overthrow him.
The Gülen movement has publicly denied any connection to the murder, but so far neither ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Jabhat Al-Nusra, the Free Syrian Army nor any other terrorist organisation have claimed responsibility for the murder either. By way of contrast, ISIS almost immediately claimed responsibility for last night’s terror attack in Berlin.
It is however clear, whatever his allegiance, that the killer’s ideology was identical to those of the terrorist groups in Syria, including those directly sponsored by Turkey.
During the course of the investigation it will be crucial to see if the assassin acted as a so-called ‘lone wolf’ terrorist, or if he took orders from a terrorist organisation.
The fact that last night also witnessed gunfire outside the US Embassy in Ankara, the Berlin atrocity, and apparent terrorist incidents in Zurich and Brussels, may suggest that this was part of a more widely coordinated terrorist assault. However, the crude nature of the various attacks also suggests that they might just be coincidental acts.
Some also believe that the assassination was part of Barack Obama’s plan to seek vengeance upon Russia for embarrassing him in Aleppo, and for the mythical Russian hacking during the US Presidential election. There is no evidence for this. The fact Obama’s US has been effectively sidelined in the Syrian peace process has angered many in Washington. Would they therefore condone such an act of unmitigated violence? One would certainly hope and presume not.
After Andrey Karlov was murdered the terrorist shouted that it was for ‘Syria and Aleppo’. He unambiguously favoured the terrorist factions in the Battle of Aleppo and was enraged by the victory of the Syrian Arab Army, made possible with Russia’s assistance.
Andrey Karlov had a significant personal hand in organising the evacuation agreement brokered by Russia and Turkey, and played an active role in drawing Turkey into the trilateral peace process between Russia, Iran and Turkey.
Because of his efforts for peace in Syria, he was a prime target for a terrorist.
One heartening sign to come out of the West on the tragic night of Andrey Karlov’s murder were the words of Donald Trump. After issuing a personal expression of condolence to the family of Mr. Karlov, Trump said
“The civilised world must change (its) thinking”.
Trump seems to understand that this brand of terrorism is the common enemy to all peace loving people, whether Syrian, Russian, Turkish or American.
Barack Obama does not understand this, and it seems that he never will.
Because of Putin’s calm response, and Ergodan’s response – which is at minimum an act of self-preservation by man who just few weeks ago was still repeating the Western mantra ‘Assad Must Go’, -the trilateral peace process will likely continue, the prospects of peace in Syria may actually have been improved, and there looks to be no risk of war between Turkey and Russia.