At least 41 people were killed in the recent bombing of Istanbul’s
The day before, suicide bombers killed five people in Qaa, a small
village in Lebanon. And while the Saudi-led and U.S.-backed war in
to rage, an ISIS affiliate claimed responsibility for attacks
in the Yemeni port city of Mukalla that killed at least 12.
As of June 29, ISIS affiliates had claimed responsibility only for
the Yemen attacks. But just a few hours after the Istanbul airport
attack, Turkish authorities were already blaming ISIS. Since Ankara
(unlike the U.S., where many officials blame ISIS for every act of
violence) has been eager to blame every attack against Turkish targets
on its Kurdish opponents – especially the Kurdish Workers Party, or
PKK – the government’s early willingness to blame ISIS implies the
likely existence of some convincing evidence.
Importantly, all three attacks took place following a significant
defeat of ISIS on the ground.
The Iraqi military, backed by US forces, had been moving against the extremist
forces in the symbolically and politically important city of Fallujah since
early February, when it imposed a full siege on the city. The closure, which
denied civilian residents access to food, medicine, and other lifesaving supplies,
devastated living conditions for the ordinary Iraqis caught between ISIS brutality
and the extreme deprivation caused by the siege. On June 26 – just days
before the bombings in Istanbul, Lebanon, and Yemen – Baghdad proclaimed
the city “liberated” from ISIS. Two days later, the Istanbul airport
The timing was similar to other terrorist attacks that occurred as
ISIS was losing ground. In the fall of 2015, the U.S.-led coalition,
including many European countries, escalated its bombing attacks on
the ISIS-held city of Ramadi. As ISIS faced the likely loss of the
Iraqi town, it pivoted away from its emphasis on holding territory
to return to its earlier focus on terror attacks against civilians.
The Paris bombing – apparently carried out by ISIS-affiliated terrorists
– shook the world on November 13. Two weeks later, on December 2,
a California couple allegedly inspired by ISIS carried out the mass
shooting in San Bernardino that killed 14 people and injured 22 more.
On December 28, the Iraqi military would declare Ramadi “liberated”
from ISIS. (This celebratory announcement didn’t mention the inconvenient
fact that US bombing had largely pulverized
what was left of the town. The 350,000 residents…