The terror attack on Istanbul's main airport is both a tragic reminder of Turkey's vulnerability to militant violence as well as yet another sign of the deadly reach of the Islamic State. The extremist organization has, as yet, not asserted responsibility for the triple bombings that claimed at least 41 lives and injured hundreds more late night on Tuesday. But both Turkish and American officials see its hand behind the hideous assault.
“If the Islamic State is indeed behind this attack, this would be a declaration of war,” Soner Cagaptay, a Turkey expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told my colleague Erin Cunningham. “This attack is different: the scope, impact and deaths of dozens in the heart of the country’s economic capital."
On the sidelines of a North American leaders' summit in Ottawa, President Obama offered his support to a vital NATO ally. “We stand with the people of Turkey," Obama said, "and we intend to do what’s necessary to make sure that these kinds of terrible events are not happening."
On one level, the attack is not that different from others. Suspected Islamic State terrorists have already killed hundreds of people in Turkey; a bombing at a leftist rally in Ankara last year remains the worst terror attack in Turkey's modern history.
But the chaos in Ataturk airport doessignal a new, perilous moment. Unlike previous alleged Islamic State attacks in Turkey -- in some instances, lone wolves hitting soft targets -- it had the hallmarks of the jihadists' strike on Brussels this year, which included a coordinated assault on the Belgian capital's main airport. The Istanbul attack has led to renewed fears of a drop in Turkey's tourism industry, which accounts for more than a tenth of the nation's GDP.