Kobane; Turkish Dilema

Por: Lander Michel 

Abogado – Internacionalista / Universidad Jesuita de Guadalajara; Magíster en Derecho Internacional / Universidad de Leiden, Países Bajos. 

Correo electrónico: lmichel@miderainternational.com

The present situation of Kobane and inaction of the Turkish government is a reflection of the lack of clarity within the Turkish government as to what actions should be taken in Syria taking into account that, as of two weeks ago, it is authorized to deploy forces outside of Turkey to combat terrorism and attacks against it.

This week we have seen that airstrikes have targeted ISIS fighters with great precision and that the Kurds have received arms and supplies from a foreign source which leads me to believe that a foreign government, most likely the US, has assisted (or Turkey) and that, most likely, Special forces are on the ground to guide the airstrikes something which no country can acknowledge but that explains the precision of the strikes which are being targeted, I believe partially from the ground.

The possibility of Kobane falling to ISIS, with all the media coverage the battle is having globally, puts the Turkish government in a dilemma as it is already facing the backlash of not intervening. In order to avoid a massacre on its doorstep and the political fallout, the best solution would be for Turkey to immediately allow the access to its country of refugees and giving some arms and supplies to PKK forces to stop ISIS with some form of artillery support in order to make the PKK more effective which would also allow Turkey to not send in ground troops. However, doing this would imply that ISIS will consider Turkey a target and will force Turkey to guard its long borders with Syria in order to stem and clash with ISIS although, on the short term, I do not foresee that ISIS will attack intentionally Turkey as it would then have a reason to invade Syria.

Furthermore, Turkey might also wish to avoid a ground incursion owing to pressure from the USA for, if it invaded and were to be attacked, this would mean that, as a NATO member, all NATO members would have to intervene to defend it although the caveat is that ISIS is not a nation-state as such and that Turkish soil would not have been attacked it would still however give NATO a serious headache for, given the recent incursion of Russia via proxies in the Ukraine, and the fear amongst former Soviet satellites that NATO would not defend them NATO could be “forced” to intervene, to allay fears that it is unwilling to defend a member-State. Failure to do so risks discrediting the institution and, in any case, weakening it vis-à-vis Russia and member-States; the effect this would have on national politics within Europe would be significant in former Soviet satellites in Europe. In addition, NATO being drawn into the conflict opens a whole new chapter in the war and will transform it from a regional conflict to a global one this without forgetting the backdrop of a Europe and USA which are tired of conflict and where defense budgets have been greatly reduced.

The fact that a Turkish incursion in Syria, although not in land held by the government, would also be considered an act of aggression, and of war, by the Syrian government whereby Turkey may also be faced with a threat from the Syrian government although this threat, should it materialize, is likely to be via terrorism or limited combat as the government of Syria is currently too preoccupied with combating the different militant groups aligned against it.

Turkey which does not wish to be drawn into a land war is faced with an even more complicated scenario should it choose to not allow refugees in and support the PKK. Firstly there is the diplomatic and global community’s perception of a Turkey that allows a massacre on its doorstep, secondly the backlash of the PKK who will be unlikely to forgive the non-intervention of Turkey when it has been authorized to act to combat terrorism in a foreign country although Turkey may accept this price in order to avoid a ground incursion or supporting a counter-attack in Kobane for the reasons mentioned above.

In any case the intervention of Turkey would, probably, be justified by Turkey for humanitarian reasons and base itself on the United Nations Secretary General declaration that there is no aggression to a country when it does not effectively control the area where the intervention takes place.

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