“Why Turkey Is Dragging Its Feet on Helping Anti-Islamic State Coalition”
The Christian Science Monitor, October 8, 2014
“[W]hen senior US officials make a stop in Turkey at the end of this week as part of a coalition-building tour, they’ll be visiting a US ally and NATO member that is proving to be an increasingly irksome thorn in the side of President Obama, whose strategy is to rely heavily on regional involvement to defeat the still-advancing terrorist group. Despite pledges to the contrary, Turkey has yet to engage in coalition efforts in any meaningful way. … The reason for the lack of involvement? Turkey’s interests in taking on IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL, do not align with US goals, regional analysts say, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan holding out for the fight to also have the aim of ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Beyond that, Mr. Erdogan has no intention of throwing Turkey’s weight behind a regional fight that has the potential to rouse and empower the region’s Kurdish populations, experts add. … But Turkey will do nothing that risks empowering Syrian Kurds and their PYD political party, a sister organization to Turkey’s PKK party, which the Turkish government considers a terrorist organization. ‘The Turks don’t care about Kobane. If anything, they prefer that it fall rather than reinforce the Syrian Kurds and become an encouragement or example to Turkey’s Kurds,’ says Henri Barkey, a former State Department Iraq expert who is now a professor of international relations at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. ‘They’re really afraid of the Syrian Kurds achieving some kind of autonomy like the [Kurds] in Iraq.’ Turkey is putting specific conditions on its participation in the anti-IS coalition: establishing a buffer zone inside Syria where Syrian refugees could settle and establishing a no-fly zone to protect Syrian civilians and the moderate Syrian fighters from Assad’s warplanes.”
Quickie Analysis: Kurdish politics aside, the Turkish government curiously still seems to see Syria’s Assad as the bigger threat on its border than ISIS — despite the fact that until Turkey’s (then prime minister now president) Erdogan announced in 2011 that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad had to go, Turkey lived relatively happily with an Assad-governed Syria as its neighbor since 1970.