Sunday, October 19, 2014

Global Impact: Ankara, a NATO Ally, May Be Inviting Economic Sanctions

According to The Associated Press, Turkey reportedly would not agree to any US arms transfers to Kurdish fighters who are battling IS  militants in Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying Sunday (October 19), as the extremist group fired more mortar rounds near the Syrian-Turkish border.
Washington has said recently that it has engaged in intelligence sharing with Kurdish fighters and officials have not ruled out future arms transfers to the Kurdish fighters.
Although it is a real long political stretch,  Turkey views the main Syrian Kurdish group (PYD)--its military wing which is fighting IS militants--as an extension of the PKK, which has waged a 30-year insurgency in Turkey and is designated a terror group by the US and NATO.
"The PYD is for us equal to the PKK. It is a terror organization," Erdogan told a group of reporters. 
"It would be wrong for the United States--with whom we are friends and allies in NATO-- to talk openly and to expect us to say "yes" to such a support to a terrorist organization," Erdogan said. His comments were reported by the state-run Anadolu agency on Sunday.
Turkey's opposition to arms transfers to the Kurdish forces is hampering the US-led coalitions' efforts to fight IS and further complicating relations between Turkey and Washington. 
The countries are involved in negotiations about Ankara's role with the US and NATO allies fighting IS, which is attempting to capture the strategic town Kobani on the Syrian-Turkish border.
View photosTurkey has demanded that the coalition widen its campaign against the militants by providing greater aid to Syrian rebels, who are battling both the IS and President Bashar Assad's forces. Turkey has so far provided sanctuary to an estimated 200,000 Syrians fleeing Kobani, and recenly agreed to train and equip moderate Syrian rebel fighters trying to remove Assad from power.
The White House said President Barack Obama spoke with Erdogan on Saturday (October 18) about the situation in Kobani and steps that could be taken to counter IS advances.
Fighting between the militants and the Kurdish fighters defending Kobani continued on Sunday. Mortar strikes hit the town, sending plumes of smoke into the air. Three mortars also fell on the Turkish side of the border, landing in an open field where they caused no injuries. On Saturday and Sunday, IS appeared to be targeting the border crossing area, potentially in a bid to hamper Kobani's last link to the outside world.
COMMENT: In recent years, Turkey has been the recipient of roughly $7 billion in economic aid and more than $14 billion in military assistance.

That being said, at a time when Turkey is a direct beneficiary of considerable foreign assistance from the US, it seems reasonable to conclude that as a member of NATO, Ankara should be providing the US far more support against the Islamic State (IS) than it currently doing.

Concurrently, perhaps if the US provides Ankara support of refugees who have flooded into Turkey, perhaps the capital could see its way to be more cooperative to the US as regards IS. 

If Ankara continues to "split hairs" over what is politically correct for Turkey to support the US in its time of need, perhaps the US should reevaluate its bi-lateral relationship with Turkey as evidence of "foot-dragging."
In an attempt to stave off the advance, a US-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes on IS positions in and near the town, as well as in other parts of Syria, particularly in the oil-rich eastern province of Deir el-Zour, as well as in Iraq. Several airstrikes hit Kobani on Saturday evening.
While 900,000 people have been registered as refugees in Turkey since the Syrian crisis began four years ago, "the reality is that the numbers are closer to 1.6 million," a spokesperson said.

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