At the moment, a critical debate is raging in Turkey about a Turkish Special Forces (TSF) detachment posted about 20 miles inside Syria to guard the Tomb of Suleiman Shah, an extraterritorial Turkish enclave. The debate has been fanned by the approaching parliamentary debate to authorize sending Turkish troops to Iraq and Syria.
Actually, the tomb has been on the agenda since March, when then-Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (now prime minister) referred to the escalating civil war in Syria and declared that Turkey wouldn’t hesitate to take any measure needed for the security of the tomb that was marked as Turkish territory by the 1921 Turkey-France border accord.
Turkey indeed took some measures. On March 14, relatively inexperienced Turkish conscripts guarding the tomb were entirely replaced by about 50 to 60 combat-proven elite troops of the Turkish Special Forces Command, all experienced in anti-terror operations. After that rotation of troops, Davutoglu said, “For the time being, there is no question of a transgression against our troops at the tomb. The tomb is considered Turkish territory. Should there be such a threat, we are ready with all necessary measures. Our public should have no worries. We have completed all our preparations for any eventuality.”
This TSF detachment has been serving at the tomb the past 6½ months. But the situation has radically changed in the last 10 days, after the release of Turkish hostages by the Islamic State (IS), the IS assault against Kobani and clashes that broke out between IS and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces in the vicinity of the tomb…
We all know what ISIS does to tombs: blows them up.