ISIS Adherents Rush To Celebrate Failed Coup, But Speak Too Soon

Online reactions to reports that U.S-led anti-ISIS missions from southern Turkey were halted revealed a sense of desperation among ISIS supporters

Reflections on the floor at the air base in Incirlik, Turkey. — AFP/Getty Images
Jul 17, 2016 at 10:21 AM ET

ISIS supporters online are revealing yet again that they’re losing, and desperate. They rushed to welcome a failed coup in Turkey—and events that unfolded in the aftermath—as an advantage.

But they spoke too soon.

Much of their enthusiasm swirled around a Saturday halt on U.S.-led, anti-ISIS missions involving planes flying from the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey. After their online conversation about the development grew on Sunday, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook tweeted that counter-ISIS air operations in Turkey had resumed.

But before the announcement, ISIS adherents online has predominantly viewed the halt as an opportunity to make territorial gains after months of severe loses. “Now the fight has begun,” tweeted an ISIS supporter early on Sunday. “The Islamic State should use the closure of Incirlik base and exterminate the Kurds, the Shiites and the rebels.”

More Turkey’s Choice: Military Rule Or Liberal Authoritarianism

The comment was one among at least dozens coming from accounts affiliated with ISIS on Telegram and Twitter, as well as from members of an ISIS forum. They all expressed joy in response to reports on Saturday that air operations at Incirlik Air Base were halted as the Turkish government—in the wake of the failed coup—closed airspace to military aircraft. The Incirlik base has allowed the U.S-led coalition to pick up the pace of airstrikes, and launch more of them, against ISIS militants in Syria and Iraq, The New York Times reported.

“Now that the Incirlik air base is closed for the moment, ISIS is taking the chance to advance on YPG positions in the northern Raqqa province,” a pro-ISIS account on Telegram posted. “The last time ISIS advanced on the YPG was in 2014 when they didn’t have U.S. airstrikes as support. So pray to God that we will see better results now.” Another Telegram channel, calling itself “The Electronic Caliphate Army,” declared, “the closure of the Incirlik air base will serve the interests of the believers (ISIS).”

It’s unclear what the halting of U.S. air missions from the base would actually mean for ISIS. But American commanders have said that losing advantages that the base offers—such as longer flight times over Iraq and Syria due to close proximity to the countries—could hinder operations significantly, The New York Times reports.

According to Turkish media, the halt on use of the air base came as security forces arrested thousands of Turkish soldiers across the country for alleged involvement in the thwarted coup. Among those arrested was a Turkish general who was a commander in Incirlik, according to the Hurriyet Daily News.

More Erdogan Praised Across Region As Turkey Coup Falters

Others ISIS supporters welcomed another fallout of the failed coup: escalating tension between Washington and Ankara. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is demanding the U.S. extradite a Pennsylvania-based cleric who is accused of directing last week’s thwarted coup.

On ISIS’ prominent al-Minar forum over the weekend, the terror group’s adherents expressed their belief that “the escalation between Turkey, America, and NATO is serving the interests of the Islamic State” and suggested that “ISIS should take this opportunity and expand” toward towns near the border with Turkey.

Others saw an opportunity more generally in the attempted coup, claiming it “at least will reduce the pressure on the Islamic State as the world will be busy with Turkey.”