With ISIS At The Border, Will Turkey Invade Syria?
Complaints about Ankara's inaction have come from the West and Kurds. But Turkey's regional ambitions may very well push it into Syria to crush ISIS. The risk could be huge.
ISTANBUL – The criminal organization that calls itself the “Islamic State” (ISIS) continues its siege of Kobani on Syrian soil, just next to Sanliurfa in Turkey's Suruc District.
This tragedy of humanity is happening just on the other side of our border, visible and audible to the naked eye and ear.
The border does not matter much because the Kurds living in Kobani and its surrounding villages (of which the majority had to flee to Turkey) are people who either moved there from Turkey or left there when the artificial border was drawn in the last century.
There is no meaning in "this' or "that" side of the border in humanitarian terms. Most people have relatives in both countries. This situation makes the tragedy that much more devastating.
The people are angry towards Turkey; which for many is their own state and government. Their anger is justified.
The ISIS attacks on Kobani have been ongoing for nearly three weeks. Turkey has not even issued a warning to ISIS as it did when the Tomb of Suleyman Shah was threatened; Turkey did not say "do not attempt an ethnic cleansing here or you will deal with me;" it did not even tried to intimidate ISIS by lining up its tanks or helicopters along the border.
One cannot help but think: would the policies of our government be the same if Kobani was a Turkmen settlement instead of a Kurdish one?
This is the plain reality with Kobani right now, but we must also look at the bigger picture: the future of Syria and Iraq.
I do not think anybody would claim that Turkey would be OK about being neighbors with ISIS, whose crimes against humanity have already filled large dossiers. So that does not explain its failure to intervene in Kobani.
Things might seem different if Turkey showed its muscle, but the big picture would not change. ISIS gives a name to the conjectural threat in the region, which is a state of chaos and lack of a government right in front of our noses. It is a situation that could potentially last for decades.
The price of ambition
The US is pushing us to intervene, and some of the Turkish media is promoting it too. So we must ask: Should Turkey enter a war? If Turkey invades Syria would it become the missing force of the region that establishes order?
This is the hard question we must be asking. Of course, we should ask this without forgetting about Kobani and the political mistake we have made there.
Can Turkey fill the void left by the US? Like him or not, blame him or ignore him, but Barack Obama's election to the White House has produced very important consequences that affect us here and now.
These consequences did not just fall from the sky. Obama's basic foreign policy promise was to retreat from Iraq and Afghanistan. He later announced this alongside a great change in strategy: the center of the world for America would "pivot" from Europe and the Middle East to the Pacific Basin.
And so indeed, America started to move away from Europe and the Middle East.
But the power vacuum left in Europe is filled with the cruelty of Russia, and the European Union could not stand in for the US. Meanwhile, Turkey tried to fill the vacuum in the Middle East, but it was a failure.
Now, many players, including ISIS, are taking advantage of that vacuum. The idea of stepping in to the role held by the US, being the big brother and police for the region, may sound sweet to some in Ankara. But we should never let ambition overshadow logic.
Entering Syria is easy; the hard parts are staying – and then leaving.
If we have to talk in military terms, it may not be so difficult for the Turkish Armed Forces to enter Syria, crush ISIS militarily, or even invade the whole country and end the Assad and his Ba'ath regime.
But what would happen when they cross the border? Do you think the Turkish army would be welcomed in Syria with flowers? Do you imagine Turkey rolling in and returning home shortly after founding a "fair regime" there?
Let nobody forget that we are talking about war; one that may not achieve its peace for decades. The government is about to make a very tough decision, a decision that should be based on facts, not dreams.