Turkey Forced To Finally See ISIS Reality Through U.S. Eyes

After last month's border attack, some hard Syrian lessons for Ankara, which has finally opened a key air base for attacks against ISIS positions.

A Turkish army investigator looks over the Syrian border last October.
A Turkish army investigator looks over the Syrian border last October.
Gonul Tol


ANKARA â€" When ISIS launched its Suruc assault by that killed 32 near the Syrian border last month, it was the clearest sign that the Islamist terror group poses a much greater threat to Turkey than it does to the West.

The anti-ISIS coalition led by the United States has been trying to make Turkey see this fact for some time now, pressing Ankara to allow the Incirlik Air Base to be used against ISIS. So Turkey has now been dragged into the coalition, demanding conditions along the way to protect what it sees as its own national interests.

What were these conditions? Has the U.S. agreed? First, Turkey has asked the Obama administration to target the Assad regime as much as ISIS, and declare a no-fly zone in Syria. Although it was not openly voiced during the Incirlik negotiations, another demand on the US has been that Washington end its cooperation with the forces of the PYD and YPG Syrian Kurds.

Back in May, I asked a Pentagon official what compromises the Obama Administration could offer in return for the permit to use the Incirlik base. He responded: “Why should we have to compromise for protecting Turkey and the world from a murderous gang like ISIS? Turkey houses nearly two million Syrian refugees within its borders. Salafist groups are acting freely in Turkey. Turkey shares a long border with Syria. It is clear that ISIS is posing a greater threat to Turkey than it does to America. Turkey should have opened Incirlik for use by the anti-ISIS coalition a long time ago without demanding any preconditions.”

Wake-up call

It turns out Turkey needed a new tragedy to take the necessary steps against a terrorist group, finally now agreeing to open the Incirlik base for use to combat ISIS. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and the pro-government media of Turkey say the Incirlik decision is a result of overcoming the differences between America and Turkey, even if those differences clearly still exist.

There is no fundamental change in the U.S. policy towards Syria in the face of Ankara's demands. The Obama administration still has no intentions to target the Assad regime, with Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis saying that a political solution in Syria is still the objective. Washington, moreover, does not seem to have changed its stance on the “no-fly zone” that Ankara had demanded, opting instead for a much smaller commitment as a “safe zone.” The coalition forces have already been bombing ISIS targets in Syria, and will continue to do so.

Another reason for tension between Turkey and the U.S. was Washington's cooperation with the Kurdish troops in combating ISIS in Syria. Some have reported that Washington will end the cooperation, or might even ban the PYD's presence in the “safe zone.” However, there is no proof for such claims, openly denied by State Department Spokesperson John Kirby who said "air support will continue” for the Kurdish forces in Syria, among the most effective in fighting ISIS.

In short, there is no change in the U.S. policy on Syria to satisfy Turkey. Ankara has been using Incirlik as a bargaining chip, but it is hard to say that Turkey got what it wanted after delaying the opening of the base for so long. Thirty-two young people paid the ultimate price of this delay.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

— Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!