A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Turkey's Involvement Authorized, but Is it a Two-Edged Sword?

Now that the Turkish Parliament has authorized Turkish intervention in Syria and Iraq, what happens next?

It's unclear, and not everyone fighting ISIS is eager to see it. Turkey's Defense Minister cautioned not to expect any action immediately. The West may salivate at the idea of NATO "boots on the ground," especially in Syria, but most of the discussion in Turkey seems to be centered on something less than an all-in combat role (though the Parliamentary authorization is broad enough to permit that if desired). The Turkish government has talked about a need for buffer zones inside Syria and Iraq, to protect the local populations and relive the refugee pressure on Turkey, combined with a no-fly zone to protect those buffers. (The fact that ISIS is not known to have operable aircraft reinforces the suspicions of some that Turkey's real adversary in Syria is the Asad regime).

The main resistance to ISIS at the critical siege of the border town of  Kobanê, however, the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), are not enthusiastic about Turkish intervention, since Turkey has been blocking Kurds inside Turkey from reinforcing or supplying the YPG, which Turkey perceives as a close ally of the Turkish Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK). Both the YPG and the PKK, which is fighting ISIS in Iraq and perhaps also in Syria, fear finding themselves caught between ISIS and the Turkish Army.

PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan has said that the fall of Kobanê and a massacre of Kurds there could end the on-again/off-again peace talks with Turkey.

Part of the irony (and difficulty) of the anti-ISIS coalition is the reluctance of several sides to embrace the old maxim tht the enemy of my enemy is my friend, even if just for one conflict. The US will not cooperate with Iran (and vice versa) against ISIS, though the US provides air cover to the Iraqi Army with its Iranian advisers (or "advisers"); the US similarly refuses coordination with the Asad regime; and now Turkey finds itself fighting the same enemy as its old adversary, the PKK, and their YPG allies.

Napoleon made a number of disparaging remarks about the problem of fighting in a coalition, but this one has twists and turns and landmines even Bonaparte never experienced.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Turks are acting as one would expect, but I am astounded by the lack of help from the Peshmerga and their boss, Barzani. After all, the PKK and PYD went in to help the Peshmerga and were the ones who saved the Ezidis. Yes, Barzani can't control the PYD as he can with its rival, but that is no excuse to allow a massacre.