Turkey weakest chain of Obama's anti-ISIS coalition

Erdogan reluctant, Ankara won't give military support

12 September, 10:17

    (by Francesco Cerri) (ANSAmed) - ANKARA, SEPTEMBER 12 - A 'Turkish issue' weighs on the coalition forged by the White House: the Turkey of Islamic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan represents for the US the weakest and most reluctant chain for the US. However, it is also key within the alliance forged against 'caliph' al-Baghdadi.

    US pressure on its Turkish alley remains high. After a difficult 80-minute-long meeting in Wales, at a NATO summit, between US President Barack Obama and Erdogan, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel arrived Monday in Ankara, followed by Secretary of State John Kerry. So far, few concrete results have been reached.

    Ankara has said it does not intend to take part in military operations, nor provide the Incirlik base for US raids against jihadist militants. It will provide humanitarian, and perhaps logistical assistance. Washington is also putting pressure on Turkey to close its 900 km of border with Syria and the almost 400 with Iraq and to shut down the 'highways of jihad' crossing its territory.

    It is still unclear how much the Turkish government intends to cooperate.

    Thousands of foreign jihadists are believed to have joined ISIS through Turkey. Ankara has announced it intercepted 830 Europeans seeking to become jihadists in two years and that it sent them back home. According to Hurriyet, anti-ISIS squads were formed to check borders and airports. But media outlets not close to the government continue to report stories of injured ISIS militants who have been treated in Turkey and of Turkish munitions found on jihadists fighting against Kurdish forces in northern Iraq. The opposition has repeatedly accused Erdogan of helping ISIS in Syria so Bashar al-Assad can be replaced with a Sunni government of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    The strategy has failed and brought jihadi militants to the southern borders of the country. However, it still influences Ankara's choices and explains reservations towards the coalition forged by Obama.

    Erdogan, according to political analyst Kadri Gursel, ''has tried everything'', except military intervention, to oust Assad.

    Now he fears a war on ISIS will boost and legitimize Damascus.

    Ankara, Gursel writes, ''refuses to accept it has lost the long-distance war against Assad, a problem which entails serious psychological aspects''. Erdogan's Sunni Turkey has clashed with the Shiite cabinet of Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq and does not want, according to the analyst, to see the central power of Baghdad boosted and armed. It also fears the war on ISIS will lead to a recognition of PKK. Turkey's Kurdish rebels are at the heart of the anti-ISIS front on the ground, together with Syrian and Iraqi Kurds. The Turkish nightmare of a 'great Kurdistan' is always behind the corner.

    The issue of 49 hostages captured by ISIS in June at the Turkish consulate in Mosul, including the consul, make the 'Turkish dilemma' even more problematic. The hostages are still being held by the men of 'caliph' al-Baghdadi - an element of permanent blackmail for Ankara, although the government has in part 'sterilized' the public opinion through a sentence which does not allow Turkish media to report on the issue. (ANSAmed)
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