How genuine is Turkey’s input into the fight against ISIS?

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Turkey’s reasons for its newfound interest in assisting the US to work against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are questionable. Though Turkey are now fighting against ISIS, they have an ulterior motive for doing so. That motive is to punish the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and prevent them from growing stronger in Turkey, and by so doing possibly bolstering separatist attitudes within Turkey’s own Kurdish population. Turkey’s president Recep Tayip Erdoğan, decided to become involved when ISIS suicide bombed a town on the border of Turkey, killing around 30 people. Erdoğan now has good reason to fight against ISIS but is also using this to his advantage to prevent the progress the Kurds are making. This became clear to see when Turkey chose to attack targets around Aleppo, very close to Syria’s Northern border so that as well as bombing ISIS, they are also killing members of the PKK in the area who are threatening Turkey. Erdoğan has good reason to fear the Kurds. Should they grow stronger in Turkey it is possible they will be able to seize their own land, as they have in Iraq, creating a domino effect as more Turkish Kurds take control of yet more land.

The conflict between the Kurds and Turkey is troubling. The Kurds are useful as they are bitterly opposed to ISIS because of Kurdistan’s near defeat at their hands. The Kurds have an intense dislike for the discriminative beliefs against any other religion or sect that ISIS have. The PKK and its sister group, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) have been very effective in fighting ISIS so far. More so than the airstrikes from Turkey. Attacking with ground troops as the PKK and PYD have done seems a much more effective way to attack ISIS.

Erdoğan came out of the most recent election without a majority and for the first time, a Kurdish party, the Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP), entered parliament. This party has historic ties to the PKK and their success was thought to mean the the relationship between the Kurds and Turkey was at last improving and the country was moving forward. It looks like Erdoğan might be hoping that by attacking the PKK and encouraging the anti-Kurdish sentiments of the Turks, he might win the the majority in a snap election should there be one. Erdoğan has suggested that the HDP could be prosecuted for having ties with the PKK. He makes it clear that peace is no longer a possibility.

On the other hand, we need Turkey. Having them as an ally means that the US are able to use its Turkish base, Incirlik, to keep aircraft in the skies above Iraq and Syria instead of using the aircraft carriers they had to have in the Mediterranean. It is also important to have as many countries working against ISIS as possible so the chances of winning are much higher.

Turkey claims it has stopped allowing ISIS to use Turkish land as a transit point to Syria. The only real solution there is, would be to encourage Turkey to make peace with the PKK and address their demands. That has to be done if we are to fully focus on the real issue which is how to wipe out ISIS.

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