By Sal Bommarito
Turkey is proving to be the most convoluted ally in the U.S. coalition that was assembled to degrade ISIS. Its aspirations relating to the turmoil in the Middle East are very complex and resulting in a lack of dedication to the U.S. mission. Turkey’s intransience is only a microcosm of many more regional disputes and suspicions among the allies that will make coordinated military action every challenging.
The latest action by the Turks has its allies scratching their heads. It was reported in a New York Times article on Wednesday that Turkish warplanes attacked positions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in southeastern Turkey. This rebel group is a long-time enemy of Turkey that is fighting for Kurdish independence. However, the group has not been active for an extended time in the interest of finding peaceful resolutions to differences. According to Turkish officials, PKK attacked a military outpost effectively breaking the cease-fire.
For weeks, the U.S. has implored Turkey to take action against ISIS forces that have besieged Kobani, a strategic Syrian town near the Syria/Turkish border. A Syrian offshoot of PKK is leading the fight in Kobani. Exacerbating the situation is Turkey’s refusal to allow Kurds on both sides of the border to consolidate their resources in the fight against ISIS.
Turkey has “conflicting goals” with several of the countries that have united to eradicate ISIS. For instance, while Turkey was attacking PKK, the U.S. was providing cover for the Syrian Kurds in the Kobani situation. The U.S., Turkey and Iran are anxious halt ISIS; yet, Iran is an ally of Syria while the U.S. and Turkey are intent on deposing President Bashar al-Assad of Spain.
The complexity of these political ebbs and flows and many others is making it difficult for the U.S. to organize a unified force against ISIS. The terrorists represent an existential threat to the region and to virtually all the Arab states close to Iraq and Syria. It is befuddling why this threat does not trump all other issues.
Making matters worse is that Iran is an outlier from the coalition. This fact has magnified Shiite/Sunni mistrust. Additionally, Iran is attempting to link its nuclear objectives with the ISIS situation, even when its proximity to on-coming ISIS forces makes it vulnerable.
Many things will be changing if ISIS continues to win the war. There is no compelling reason to think that its military success will wane, especially if the allies are unable to muster capable ground forces to fight ISIS.