Turkey’s new neighbour – DAESH (Islamic State)

President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey must feel like a chess grand master playing several games simultaneously. He has far more neighbours and different cultures to contend with than most leaders: eight in all.

They are a mixed bag across more than 2600 kms of borders – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Armenia, an Azerbaijan enclave, Georgia, Bulgaria and Greece. And across the Black Sea he has Russia.

Now he has an unofficial neighbour: Daesh, also known as Islamic State. It has been active along Turkey’s frontier inside Syria and regards territory it has seized as part of its self-styled caliphate.

It poses a dilemma for President Erdogan. He has 1.5 million refugees on his hands, mainly from Syria as a result of barbaric actions by Daesh. The EU has offered him what some see as a generous bribe to deter the refugees from heading west to Europe.

He has joined the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Daesh, but is his heart really in it even though he has blamed it for killing 100 people at a peace rally in Turkey in October? His air force by all accounts prefers to attack Kurdish targets.

His critics say he tolerates Daesh as being good for business and helping deal with what he sees as his real enemy, the Kurds. But for the U.S.-led coalition fighting Daesh, it is the Kurds who have done more than any other force on the ground in repelling its advances.

David Graeber, a professor at the London School of Economics, thinks he has the answer to eliminate Daesh. Writing in the Guardian, he says:

‘All it would really take would be to unleash the largely Kurdish forces of the YPG (Democratic Union party) in Syria and PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) guerrillas in Iraq and Turkey. But instead the YPG-controlled territory in Syria finds itself placed under a total embargo by Turkey and the PKK forces are under continual bombardment by the Turkish air force. Not only has Erdogan done almost everything he can to cripple the forces actually fighting (Daesh); there is considerable evidence that his government has been at least tacitly aiding (Daesh) itself’.  Continue reading

  • John Tulloh had a 40-year career in foreign news. This opinion piece was posted on John Menadue’s blog.
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