In Britain where the House of Commons endorsed action against ISIS on Friday, Prime Minister David Cameron described the hallmarks of the latest campaign in the Middle East as patience and persistence, as opposed to shock and awe.
For any government intending to join the US-led coalition, securing a strong national consensus on the need to confront the threat of ISIS must be a crucial first step.
Yet, it is equally important to remember that the rise of ISIS in both Iraq and Syria was largely the result of a series of strategic miscalculations in recent years. Without fully analyzing and understanding these underlying causes, it will not be possible to formulate effective, long-term solutions for the future.
Many of those now intending to address the situation in the Middle East have also long been seen part of the problem.
British Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged that. He told the House of Commons that the shadow of the United Kingdom’s last military involvement in Iraq hanged heavy over the chamber” adding, “but the situation that we face today is very different.”
It is true that we now live in a different world. We had never before faced a jihadist organization with a near-global pulling power, controlling vast areas of territory, a large arsenal of stolen weaponry, money and access to resources and information.
For these reasons alone, it is absolutely necessary for governments to avoid falling back into bad habits.
At times like this, there is no room for ambiguity.
With ISIS already establishing itself close enough to be seen from inside its borders, Turkey needs a transparent, concise and coherent policy more than any other country.
On his way back to Turkey from the UN General Assembly in New York, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told journalists that “Turkey would do whatever is necessary in the duty that falls to its share” and “ it would protect its borders by itself”. The President also talked about a new motion to be voted at the Turkish Parliament next week authorizing the army to conduct cross-border operations.
According to Mr Erdogan, Turkey continues to insist on three issues: the declarations of no-fly and secure zones as well as the provision of training and equipment for the Syrian rebels. Turkey seems to be still bargaining with the US-led coalition to have the removal of Syrian’s President Assad to be part of the campaign against ISIS. This doesn’t point to a serious rethink of discredited past policies.
But, most worryingly, Turkey’s perceived underhand approach to the crisis threatens a return to clashes with its own Kurdish insurgent movement, the PKK. In an exclusive interview with journalist Amberin Zaman, Cemil Bayik, the PKK’s top field commander has accused Turkey of continuing to support ISIS and intentionally harming the Kurds in the neighboring Syrian area of Rojava. He has also claimed that the Turkish government was resorting to deception in its peace-process negotiations with the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.
ISIS forces are attacking the Kurdish town of Kobane near the border between Turkey and Syria. Turkey’s Kurds see it as a make or break situation for their divided nation. If the newly-established coalition cannot prevent Kobane’s fall to ISIS, Turkey will have to brace itself not only for a long and drawn out period of instability outside its borders but also a renewed conflict inside the country, too. .
This post is also available in: Turkish