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What Turkey Wants in the War on Islamic State 21 octobre 2014

Posted by Acturca in Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie, USA / Etats-Unis.
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The Wall Street Journal Europe (USA) October 21, 2014, p. 13

By Ibrahim Kalin *

Airstrikes alone will not be sufficient to eliminate Islamic State (also referred to as ISIS). This has been Turkey’s view from the outset of its march into Iraq and Syria, and military officials in the U.S. and elsewhere now share this view. Yet as evidence mounts that the air campaign is not enough, some seek to blame Turkey for not putting boots on the ground.

Turkey is being asked to send ground forces into Syria; to send arms to the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, in Kobani; and to allow the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) fighters into Syria. All three requests are based on faulty logic and a fundamental misunderstanding of the facts on the ground.

No other member nation of NATO or the U.S.-led international alliance has committed to sending ground troops into Syria. President Barack Obama and European allies, including Germany and Britain, have explicitly ruled it out. Yet strangely enough, “ground troops” have become Turkey’s—and only Turkey’s—obligation.

Why are we alone being asked to commit troops? Why isn’t removing Assad part of the plan?

Turkey does support the fight against Islamic State and other terrorist threats. On Oct. 2 the nation’s parliament passed a motion authorizing the government to use military force and to cooperate with foreign troops against terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq. But criticizing Turkey for refusing to send ground troops when no other country is committing troops to the fight defies any logic.

The idea that Turkey should send arms to PYD—the Syrian branch of the outlawed PKK—is flawed. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S., European Union and NATO, and Turkey still faces the danger of PKK terrorism. Street clashes in Turkey’s cities incited by PKK and its political wing (the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party) took the lives of 32 people over the past 10 days. Arming PKK’s Syrian affiliate is tantamount to giving weapons to the PKK. Who will guarantee that the weapons given to PYD will not end up in the hands of the PKK?

Turkey’s Daglica military outpost, near the border of Iraq and Iran, recently came under heavy fire for three days by the PKK. Turkey responded with an aerial attack on these forces on Oct. 14. The government of Turkey will take every measure to protect its citizens when their security is threatened. It would never arm outlawed organizations that pose a threat to their safety. The PKK attack should be a warning sign of the dangers that lie ahead if PKK or its affiliates receive additional weapons. Despite these attacks, Turkey is committed to the peace process to resolve the Kurdish issue.

Those proposing to let PKK fighters enter Syria to fight alongside PYD forces against Islamic State ignore the duplicitous alliances among the factions inside Syria. It is well-established that the PYD has largely allied itself with the regime of Bashar Assad, and moved to control Kurdish-populated areas. PYD has never joined other Syrian opposition groups such as the Free Syrian Army in opposing the Assad regime.

Turkey has already done more than any other country for the victims of Assad’s repression. It is hosting more than 1.6 million Syrian refugees in its territory. It has spent more than $4 billion for humanitarian relief without significant international support. And Turkey prevented a human tragedy by virtually evacuating Kobani when it accepted close to 200,000 Kurds fleeing Islamic State. Carol Batchelor, of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, was recently quoted as saying that when it comes to saving lives, “The U.N. could not catch up with Turkey.”

Turkey will work with the U.S. and other allies to train and equip Syrian moderate opposition groups to fight against Islamic State and the Assad regime—a regime that is responsible for the killing of more than 200,000 people in the past three and a half years. Islamic State’s barbaric beheadings and summary executions, horrible and disgusting as they are, should not shadow the war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by Mr. Assad.

Peace, security and stability in Syria cannot be established with the Assad regime remaining in power. In addition, Mr. Assad’s bloody war bears responsibility for the barbaric acts of Islamic State as it prepared the ground for such terrorist groups to emerge and grow in the first place. Hitting Islamic State while ignoring the Assad regime alone is a shortsighted strategy that will not end the bloodshed in Syria and Iraq.

*  Mr. Kalin is deputy secretary general of the presidency of the Republic of Turkey.


1. Iakovos Alhadeff - 2 novembre 2014

The Crisis in the American-Turkish Relation. A conflict over natural gas in Syria and Iran.


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