The ongoing aerial strikes on Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) targets in Iraq and Syria, while commendable, have proven Turkey's point that attacks from the air alone will not be sufficient to degrade and eliminate ISIS. A comprehensive and integral strategy is needed to neutralize the circumstances that paved the way for ISIS and other terrorist organizations to emerge in the first place. This does not prevent the international coalition from taking immediate steps. To the contrary, a broader strategy as the one Turkey ensures the success of social, political and military steps.
Officials themselves acknowledge that attacking ISIS targets around Kobani from the air will not be sufficient. This is what President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been saying all along. But instead of listening, some are blaming Turkey for not putting boots on the ground. This is a failure of logic.
Turkey is asked to do three things that no other country is asked to do: send Turkish forces into Kobani, send arms to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and/or allow PKK fighters into Syria. Let's analyze each option.
Sending ground troops into Syria, as made clear by various officials, is not on the agenda of either NATO or the new US-led international alliance. None of the countries in the alliance has made such a commitment or voiced support for it. But suddenly, Turkey is blamed for not putting troops on the ground as if it has such an obligation.
Turkey supports the fight against ISIS and other terrorist threats in Iraq and Syria. To formalize this support and also to protect its own borders, the Turkish Parliament passed a motion on Oct. 2 to authorize Ankara to use military force against terrorist organizations including ISIS. But those who voted "no" on Oct. 2 and criticized the government for foraying into military adventures are now blaming Turkey for not intervening in Kobani.
The second option of sending arms to the PYD in Syria is another impossible proposition. Though Turkey has been conducting a very successful peace process to resolve the Kurdish issue, the PKK remains an outlawed terrorist organization. As the events this week in Turkey show, the PKK has the fatal capacity to initiate street violence, terrorism and vandalism. Thirty-one people died in street clashes in various Turkish cities because of the calls by PKK and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). Some may underestimate the security threat the PKK poses and romanticize about a war of liberation but the reality is that Turkey is still faced with the clear and present threat of PKK terrorism. Sending arms to the PYD in Syria is tantamount to giving weapons to the PKK. Do they want Turkey to arm the PKK?
Finally, the third option is letting PKK fighters into Syria to fight alongside PYD forces against ISIS. This, too, is an impossible proposition, but it raises an important question about the PYD's shady and wrongful alliances in Syria. The PYD is the Syrian wing of the PKK and adopts the same ideology and tactics against its opponents. When the Syrian uprising started, the PYD did not hesitate to ally itself with the regime of Bashar al-Assad and eliminate other Kurdish groups. Since then, the PYD has played a double game: maintaining relations with the Assad regime on the one hand and using PKK-like tactics to control Kurdish-populated areas on the other. That's why the PYD never joined Syrian opposition groups and continues to play double games. As the International Crisis Group report notes, the PYD's dependence on the Assad regime makes it a liability for all Kurds in Syria and the region.
None of these options is legitimate and viable. Turkey is right to refuse to be part of an operation that will eliminate one terrorist organization and legitimize another.
The fact is that Turkey has done more for the people of Kobani than any other country. It has taken in close to 200,000 refugees from the city and is currently hosting them. It is providing food, shelter and medicine to them. Short of military intervention, Turkey is doing everything it can.
But apparently this is not enough for some. Somehow, Turkey should carry the burden alone and when it refuses to do so, on perfectly legitimate grounds, it is blamed of "failing Kobani." In the meantime, U.S. officials make it clear that preventing the fall of Kobani is not a "strategic priority."
Putting the blame on Turkey for the failure of coalition airstrikes in Kobani is a failure of logic in this brutal war. Furthermore, hitting ISIS and going into Kobani without addressing the root causes, which include the Assad regime, is a shortsighted strategy that will neither bring the end of ISIS nor eliminate other security threats.
About the author
Presidential spokesperson for the Republic of Turkey