Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once aspired to lead the Muslim world. At this time of regional crisis, he has been anything but a leader. Turkish troops and tanks have been standing passively behind a chicken-wire border fence while a mile away in Syria, Islamic extremists are besieging the town of Kobani and its Kurdish population. [New York Times]
FRUSTRATION with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is justified and now we get from the Turkish foreign minister that U.S. and coalition allies working against ISIL are being “unrealistic” to expect Turkey to lead with the threat at their own border.
This is the kind of behavior that Americans look at with disdain. Erdogan expecting a quid pro quo for protecting his own border.
Internal politics, wary of Kurds, as well as the PKK, is part of it. But President Erdogan may be a little petty, remembering that President Obama drew a red line and warned Syria‘s Bashar al Assad not to cross it and when he did the U.S. backed down.
Bottom line for Erdogan, he wants Assad out and expects the U.S. to get it done.
Turkey has often spoken about establishing buffer zones inside Syria – both to protect its own borders and to provide areas where refugees could gather safely. But creating such zones would represent a significant military operation requiring the seizure of defendable terrain.
This might require an incursion into Syria of some significant depth and Turkish forces would immediately become targets for IS fighters.
Turkey has always argued that such a buffer zone must be accompanied by a no-fly zone to protect against the Syrian Air Force. Turkey’s thinking was forged at a time when it saw the Assad regime as the main enemy. The US might argue that against IS – which has no air force – such an exclusion zone is irrelevant.
But this all goes to the central differences between Ankara and Washington, with the Turks insisting that the anti-IS campaign must be accompanied by stepped up measures against the Assad regime as well.