February 1st, 2013
05:12 PM ET

Ankara attack a sign of things to come?

By Soner Cagaptay, Special to CNN

Soner Cagaptay is a Beyer Family fellow at The Washington Institute and author of 'Turkey Rising: The 21st Century's First Muslim Power.' You  can follow him @sonercagaptay. The views expressed are his own.

Today’s attack against the U.S. Embassy in Ankara suggests Turkey’s radical leftist Marxist groups, as small as they might be, could be mobilizing against America.

Turkey’s political landscape continues to bear the vestiges of violent leftist movements from the 1970s, laden with deep-rooted Cold War-style anti-Americanism. These small but active movements have rallied against the deployment of U.S. and NATO Patriot missiles in southern Turkey, and are believed to have been behind a January 21 protest aimed at Patriot teams arriving in the port of Iskenderun.

Although such groups operate at the political margin, they could have an outsized impact. Iranian and Russian media have covered these incidents extensively, no doubt in order to feed into anti-NATO sentiment and to increase the political costs for Ankara supporting the Syrian opposition. Indeed, small Turkish Marxist groups could even emerge as nodes of broader opposition to Ankara’s effective policy of working to help oust the al-Assad regime.

But there is also a sectarian dimension at play. The al-Assad regime is supported by Syria’s minority Alawite sect of Islam. Turkey, meanwhile, is home to hundreds of thousands of Alawites. Some Turkish citizens of Alawite origin are unabashedly pro-al-Assad, and they have also been disproportionately represented among Turkey’s radical leftist movements, including the Revolutionary Peoples Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), the radical terrorist group that Turkish police believe was behind today’s attacks against the U.S. Embassy.

But there is an even greater risk: Turkey is home to another traditionally leftist and historically (in the Cold War context) Marxist-leaning branch of Islam, the Alevis, with followers believed to number around 10 million people.

The Alevis and Alawites are different groups, despite phonetically similar names (both Alawites and Alevis derive their names from their reverence for Ali, a close relative of the Muslim prophet Mohammed, but they represent different and distinct strains of Islam).

Still, Ankara’s Syria policy could rally the Alevis behind a hard leftist agenda, one opposed to the United States. Like the Alawites, the Alevis are disproportionately represented in Turkey’s Marxist groups, including DHKP-C.

It is clear that further NATO and U.S. deployments in Turkey could mobilize the Alawites and Alevis to adopt a more visceral anti-American position, representing another area of  spillover into Turkey from the Syria conflict.

Communism is dead, but part of Turkey’s radical left could be rising from its ashes.


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Topics: Middle East • Syria • Turkey

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. matslats

    Don't forget the role Turkey played in destabilising Europe and the deep ties to operation Gladio, heroin smuggling, and always consider the possibility of FALSE FLAG attacks, which justify our hate, fear and retaliation against the scapegoats.

    February 1, 2013 at 6:23 pm | Reply
    • cem ozgen

      You are a dreamer. Pkk terrorist organization is the key of heroin and smuggling. I really love you goverment conspiracies.

      February 2, 2013 at 7:37 am | Reply
  2. ferhatoglu

    No doubt, the work of Commies probably aided by the PKK.

    February 1, 2013 at 11:43 pm | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Another stupid comment from another lame brained, government loving Tea Partier! These people believe everything this government along with the right-wing news media says, no matter how false it may be!

      February 2, 2013 at 11:26 am | Reply
  3. rightospeak

    Why would Marxists attack Globalists ( international capitalism in a few hands) when their aims are the same ? It makes no sense. Unfortunately , there is little truth in our media. There is propaganda and censorship so who knows what is actually going on .

    February 2, 2013 at 10:50 am | Reply
  4. Joseph McCarthy

    Is the Ankara attack truly a sign of things to come? Hopefully, yes! The man who attacked the U.S. embassy there had the right idea. In other words, anyone who opposes NATO and it's malicious and sinister plans can't possibly be all bad!!! In fact, the neocons in Washington currently run things in Turkey!

    February 2, 2013 at 11:22 am | Reply
  5. RAJ

    USA army cannot go to each and every terrorist disturbed country of the world. This fact is well understood by the terrorist group. Terrorist group are led by modern brain with all kinds of intelligence and high tech knowledge. These new brains have logical reasoning that if we create problems in different countries where their is a weak government or there is in-direct government blessings then they will create enough problems for USA and UK, which is their main target. USA need to target such weak governments and not only terrorist group. If we kill one terrorist, there will be more in the future just growing up of weeds. They have nothing to loose, their life is miserable and they are creating imaginary value in their life in name of religion or say in name of Allah which is exploited well by their intelligent leaders. Their leaders real benefit is fame, authority, power in fanatic Muslim world and that what we saw in case of Bin Landen. Money source to terrorist group is very important which got to be curtailed. In USA, now also Hawala money transfer system is being used successfully without notice of the government.

    February 2, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Reply
  6. Quigley

    It appears that Turkey is ripe for a revolution against a government both bought and paid for by Washington. The Turks need to get out from under the thumb of the right-wing thugs in Washington, grant the Kurds the independence they deserve and pull out of NATO once and for all!

    February 2, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Reply
    • Ahmet Yavuz Kaymak

      Dear Quigley. I invite you to find out about Tukrey more deeply if you are interested in international politics. Turkish Kurds are already independent and they are parts of our nation which includes many different ethnicities. They have their lands, houses and they have the equal rights with other ethnicities. According to the independent surveys, more than 75% of the Turkish Kurds have no intention of having a separate country. However, there is a separatist terorist group called PKK who does not represent the whole Kurdish people and whose biggest income is from drugs. They have killed thousands of people and soldiers regardless of their ethnicity and unfortunately, their biggest supporters are Iran, Syria, Israel, Armenia and Greece. It is also known that the European countries like France and Germany has indirect support to them. There were cases when USA also supported this terrorist group by providing them guns just like how they provide weapon to the mafia groups accross the borders to Mexico. Currently, the government is in contact with the related parties to stop the terrorist activities of this group. Hopefully, they will leave their weapons and will take part to improve the country.

      February 3, 2013 at 5:48 am | Reply
      • jimmy

        Well Soleiman , I think you call peace and nice enviroment before the napoleonic invasions when 50.000 man of the Spanish Army fought to the 100.000 peacefull turks in 1540 after the peacefull siege of Viena in 1529 where the germans called a mayday we cannot resist more we need serious help or we will be peacefully invaded . lol...
        We can call also peacefull after this battle of Malta in 1565(coalition of emperor army and templars )and in vengance the destruction of Tunis-spanish army of 30.000 man in 1570 peacefully of course . And im not talking about dozen battles more with less importance but bloody ones ..
        Europe and Turkey where at war until the destruction of the otoman empire around 1800 where the tecnological difference was so big between armies,

        February 8, 2013 at 9:47 am |
  7. Ahmet Yavuz Kaymak

    The suicide bomber were trained in DHKP-C terrorist camps in Greece. This is not the first time Greece follows hostile politics against Turkey. However, this time the target was not only Turkey but US Embassy. Once more it has become obvious that supporting terrorism gives unexpected results. USA has to concentrate more on Greeks support to terrorism if US wants to sort out such incidents in the long run.

    February 3, 2013 at 5:54 am | Reply
    • Quigley

      Ahmet, one has to remember that the animosity between Greece and Turkey goes all the way back to the 15th century when the Turks finally overran the Eastern Roman Empire in which Greece was an integral part of. The Greeks suffered heavily under Turkish rule for some 400 years thereafter and they were more impoverished by heavy taxes and the poorer ones had the children taken instead and brought up to become Jannizeries for the Turkish Sultan. This went on until 1831!

      February 3, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Reply
      • soleman

        That is a lie. Turks and Greeks lived in peacefully for many years until nationalism rised in europe after french revolotion in 1789. Turks had never been colonist like like west world. Colonism and Slave Trade is relate to the history of west world.

        February 4, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
      • Jul Sezar

        yeah, maybe you're right, but before you try to look around litfen...we have made conquests. Where is the real landowners ?? where is the indians,romans?we still were good to the Romans.We have to live with us, and allowed to marry.You can see it when you look to the people of anatolia.are all intertwined with mosaic. Turks Kürds Greek Circassian Christian Jewish. Thank's.

        February 8, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • MarkosK

      "The suicide bomber were trained in DHKP-C terrorist camps in Greece."...Hahahahhaha ! Are you serious ? No, he trained in Mars and came down in an asteroid to ruin Turkey ! Behave yourselves Turks, be more mature to your thinking and stop blamming us the Greeks for your incompetence.

      February 4, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Reply
      • soleman

        It is hard to accept the truth. Still I have sympathy to Greek people because we have a lot of common values coming from the history. They are closer to Turks than European Community. In the future, Turks , Greeks , Bulgarian, Macedonian , Hungary can built an alternative union against western europe because they have many common values.

        February 4, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  8. j. von hettlingen

    The group's main power-base is among the urban poor and the educated: students, reporters, lawyers etc. They have been a thorn in Turkey's side for long. The protests in 2000 deepened their resentment towards Turkish authorities. The group spearheaded a long-running hunger strike in prisons over the introduction of high-security jails. More than 60 people died in the protest, most of them DHKP-C members. Another 30 inmates were killed when the army stormed prisons in December 2000 to end the campaign.

    February 3, 2013 at 6:38 pm | Reply
  9. deniz boro

    I doubt that the pheriphery of the radical leftist are taking such propoganda to heart. When I meet a symphasizer, he/she is more likely to join such groups as a means of meeting the opposite gender or take it as a tea party. Or for being something different than his/her peer group. The old leftist or communist in Turkey have long lost belief in the currency of communism. These recent bloody acts can only be foreign- origined.

    February 3, 2013 at 11:28 pm | Reply
  10. jimmy lim

    Yes, the extremists will try to destabilise Turkey, the most secular Islamic nation. Other islamic nations will implode eventually leading to failed states as islam is not compatible to democracy if there is no secularism. Just look at Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria, mali, Libya, Algeria, Pakistan, lebanon etc. If Turkey is not careful, it will go the same route

    February 4, 2013 at 8:51 am | Reply
  11. Rick McDaniel


    It also clearly underlines the reality, that Turkey is no longer a secularist nation, but rather, it is now in the control of Islam.

    February 6, 2013 at 10:25 am | Reply
  12. empresstrudy

    No. Because this was engineered by Turkish intelligence to keep the US on its toes.

    February 6, 2013 at 6:23 pm | Reply
  13. Caligirl

    I hate tutkish politicians they are ruinning Syria.

    February 14, 2013 at 7:34 am | Reply
  14. harga mobil

    Awedsome post.

    October 11, 2014 at 5:31 am | Reply

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