Cablegate: Istanbul Reacts to Synagogue Bombings

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (sbu) Summary: Istanbul is still stunned by the shock and
horror of Saturday's synagogue bombings. The overwhelming
response has been to view this as a senseless and
unjustifiable attack, not merely against Turkey's small
Jewish community, but against Turkey itself. Despite
widespread speculation and uncertainty about possible
perpetrators and motives, the general consensus among our
contacts is that the attacks are unlikely to have a
significant impact either on Turkish domestic politics or
foreign policy. End Summary.

2. (u) An Attack Against All Turks: The casualty figures from
the synagogue bombings now indicate that 23 people were
killed and over 300 wounded (reftel). Only 6 of those killed
were members of the Jewish community, although community
officials tell us that one other member remains in critical
condition. Chief Rabbi Isak Haleva himself was lightly
injured on one hand and his son suffered more serious wounds
to his face. Although the synagogues and the Jewish
community were clearly the intended target, most Turks with
whom we have spoken feel that the attacks were simply attacks
against Turkey. Noting that most of the victims were Muslim
bystanders and security personnel, men-on-the-street condemn
the senseless violence and express solidarity with their
Jewish fellow citizens. The Jewish community, living under
constant terrorist threats, was horrified by the scale of the
attacks, but not particularly surprised by the attacks

3. (u) Government Responds: Turkish officials have responded
quickly to the attacks. Accompanied by several ministers,
Prime Minister Erdogan toured the damaged synagogues, visited
victims in the hospitals, and made a courtesy call on Chief
Rabbi Haleva and the community leadership. The Prime
Minister has been widely quoted as vowing to find the
perpetrators of the attacks and to "continue fighting
terrorism in the international arena." Investigators have
taken control of the sites, gathered evidence, and are
following up on the available leads. The press reported, for
example, that a few suspects had been taken into custody, but
later reported that these suspects have since been released.

4. (u) Investigation: Although the investigations are still
in the early phases, many think that the attacks were
instigated from abroad. Press reports indicate that an
Al-Qaeda-affiliated group has claimed credit for the attacks.
Authorities are now more or less convinced that each attack
was carried out by suicide bombers using small trucks with
fake license plates carrying 300-400 kilograms of explosives.
It remains unclear to what degree local actors may have been
involved in the planning and execution of the attacks. Most
Turks remain puzzled about the possible motives for such an
attack, but most of the speculation focuses on possible anger
directed against Turkey's close relationship with Israel and
the U.S. and its complicity with regard to the volatile
situations in Iraq and the Palestinian territories.

5. (sbu) Impact on Turkish Politics: Noted political experts
are waiting to see what impact the bombings will have on the
government's policies. Cengiz Candar, columnist for Tercuman
daily newspaper, told poloff that it is too soon to say for
sure whether the attacks will have a long-term impact. He
noted that it will be important to see to what extent
domestic groups or organizations were involved in the
attacks. Candar commented, however, that if the motive was
to drive a wedge between Turkey and Israel, it may well have
the opposite effect. Ismet Berkan, editor and columnist for
Radikal daily newspaper, said that he doesn't see any
likelihood that the bombings will create domestic problems
for the government or affect the general direction of its
policies. Sabanci University Professor Ali Carkoglu was more
concerned, noting that anti-AK elements may try to use any
links uncovered with domestic Islamic extremists to attack
the government. He added that public support for
Turkish-Israeli relations was always "thin" at best; more
such attacks could prompt criticism and a public debate on
the subject.

6. (sbu) Comment: Some are already postulating absurd
MOSSAD/CIA conspiracy theories. Others are using the attacks
to criticize Turkey's relationships with Israel and the U.S.
It will be impossible to convince purveyors of these views to
change. However, investigators and others in decision-making
positions appear to accept that Al-Qaeda or some similar
terrorist group has targeted Turkey. This is not the first
time, of course, that Turkey has been the victim of terrorist
attacks, but it does bring the U.S.-led "war on terror" a lot
closer to home.

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