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The US has Unleashed a Conflict with ISIS which it Can’t Win…

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News media worldwide reported on 13 October that Turkey will give the United States and its allies access to its air bases, including Incirlik in the south (150 km from the Iraqi border), to carry out air operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The Associated Press, citing anonymous sources, reported that Turkey had thus far refused requests from Washington to use the Incirlik air base in the air operation against ISIS.

Incirlik is the largest air base used by the United States under its defense treaty with Turkey. Ankara has clearly not been able to resist strong pressure from outside, especially from Washington and Riyadh. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to keep his country out of the battle with the Islamists have ultimately been unsuccessful. Offering the use of its air bases does not make Turkey a direct participant in the hostilities, and Turkey has not invaded foreign soil. But one can confidently assert that it has taken the first step in that direction. And now the Islamists have an excuse for taking on Turkey, which includes bringing their fight to its territory.

In addition, the Kurds, who up until now have been the main target in northern Iraq and Syria, are in an even more difficult situation. The West proposed that they fight Syrian President Bashar Assad in exchange for security. The Kurds responded that although they don’t have much sympathy for Assad, he wasn’t bothering them and had even helped them by providing them with weapons to battle terrorist organizations. But the Islamists have attacked and brutally killed many Kurds, slaughtering entire villages in the process. And now it’s difficult to see how the Kurds are going to build their relations with Turkey and Iraq on the one hand, considering that the major Kurdish parties and organizations are seeking to create an independent state, and the West, which is sympathetic to Kurdish aspirations but cannot support the Kurds at the expense of its relations with Ankara, Baghdad, Riyadh and the Sunni monarchies of the Arabian peninsula, which are members of the anti-terrorist coalition led by the United States and many of the NATO countries.

The ISIS-attacked city of Kobani is located in such a way that heavy weaponry and ground support troops can’t be sent in without passing into Turkey. The Turkish, Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian Kurds form one big nation that has been divided by borders for hundreds of years. Ankara, of course, is not happy about the existence of an autonomous Kurdish state in Iraq. Erdogan fears that separatist sentiment in Turkey will grow, so he won’t have any objection to seeing the terrorists put the Kurds in their place, so to speak, without getting his own hands dirty. The problem for him is that the Turkish Kurds, who are a powerful force in eastern and southeastern Turkey, will never forgive the Turkish government if Kobani and its citizens succumb to ISIS. Ankara holds in its hands the key to solving this puzzle created by the American bombing of Syria and Iraq. Inaction by Turkey spells the destruction of the city and the start of mass unrest in the expansive and densely populated areas of Turkish Kurdistan, leading all the way up to some gloomy scenarios. Ankara would surely have to suppress the mass Kurdish demonstrations with the army, and amid the growing restlessness, ISIS militants would be fully capable of carrying out terrorist attacks in Turkey. Anti-Erdogan feeling would grow even in purely Turkish areas, including Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

It doesn’t take a visionary to see how this would play out. The United States and Riyadh would continue to put pressure on Ankara, urging the Turks to send ground forces first into northeastern parts of Syria and then into Damascus. A few measly airstrikes are not going to win the war against ISIS. Of course, troops who are backed by air support naturally have a major advantage. But troops can only be employed if they are engaging the enemy directly in a ground war. There is no direct engagement on the ground between the ISIS brigades and the Iraqi army. And if there is no serious opponent on the battlefield, the side being bombed simply adjusts to the bombings and figures out how to regroup after each strike, which only strengthens its will to win. Which is happening now in the battle for Kobani.

Since the very beginning of the crisis caused by the success of the Islamic State, President Obama has stubbornly stuck to a policy of not sending American soldiers into the conflict zone. The White House is clearly not opposed to a land operation led by Turkey and Iran, as the Iraqi army has collapsed and Syrian forces are defending Damascus from the motley opposition created by the United States and Arab countries. But until Turkey and Iran jump into the fight, without American soldiers this war against ISIS cannot be won. We can therefore conclude that, in Obama’s mind, America can afford not to win it. Is he right about that? Most probably not. ISIS will never become a member of the world community. It is based on violence and genocide and will continue to resort to both because it consists of hundreds of thousands of religious fanatics. Syria and Iraq will be unable to resist if ISIS gains strength in areas it has already captured. The Iraqis and Syrians are fractured after years of civil and ethno-religious war waged by the United States and its allies under the banner of the “democratization” of the Middle East by means of a “color revolution”.

If ISIS is not defeated, then everyone will have to put up with an unpredictable extremist state with battle-hardened leaders and commanders, indifferent to the suffering of ethnic and religious minorities and filled with hatred towards the West, right in the heart of the Middle East. This new state would waste no time worming itself into Turkey, stirring up Islamic extremism there and fomenting unrest among the young with its jihadist ideas. So President Erdogan is now playing a double game. He has supposedly joined the coalition against ISIS, but he is not preventing the destruction of Kobani and is stubbornly refusing to allow the Kurds fighting for Kobani to receive arms and reinforcements. Erdogan is a Sunni, and he also wants to restore a neo-Ottoman caliphate to the extent that this is possible. It’s only natural that he has some measure of sympathy with ISIS, though he certainly will not become a “partner” in ISIS’s construction of an Islamic empire. The Turkish president hopes that one way or another, Ankara will come out of this situation in an advantageous position and with a heightened sense of Islamic identity. The defeat of ISIS does not give him the desired result. On the contrary, it will only strengthen Kurdish nationalism in Turkey and beyond. But once ISIS establishes itself inside defined borders, continuing the jihad is a matter of course. It will support terrorists abroad and will almost certainly try to get chemical, nuclear and biological weapons. In the worst-case scenario, the Taliban would return to power in Afghanistan and rebuild their network in Pakistan, thus ensuring ISIS would have no difficulty whatsoever in acquiring those sorts of weapons.

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