Turkey's conflicting interests over Syria and ISIS

Video transcript:

Is Turkey able to effectively contribute towards the fight against ISIS?

Dr James Jay Carafano:

I think Turkey has very conflicted interests. They are very concerned about the Assad regime, they would like that to go away. They’re not really looking for a major confrontation with ISIS. They are also concerned about the impact this would have on Kurds in their own country.

So this conflicted foreign policy has left the Turks looking crosswise at themselves.

I don’t think that’s going to change. I think that Turkey will always have problems sorting out its priorities and dealing with Iran, ISIS, the Assad regime, and Iraq, and the Kurds in Kurdistan, the Kurds in Syria, and the Kurds in their own country.

Turkey has pushed for the removal of Syria’s President Assad. How does the overriding goal impact on actions on the ground?

Dr James Jay Carafano:

I don’t think it really does. Assad and his regime in Syria are being heavily supported by the Russians and the Iranians. And as long as the Iranians and the Russians continue to support Assad, the likelihood of that regime being pushed out is not going to happen.

So, I think what Turkey is asking for is unrealistic. And here’s the thing – defeating ISIS and driving them out of Iraq, which is the primary US interest, doesn’t necessarily require the fall of the Assad regime or the elimination of every single ISIS person in Syria.

So the United States and Turkey don’t really have the same interests here.

How successful is the US-led coalition against ISIS likely to be?

Dr James Jay Carafano:

Well, I think that’s a real open question. I think today it hasn’t demonstrated itself to be very successful at the critical and important thing, which is driving ISIS out of Iraq, which, I think, has to be the US strategic goal.

We’ve seen the United States help stop the ISIS advance in some areas, and we’ve seen some activities in Syria. But then again I don’t think the activities in Syria, other than the humanitarian mission to help protect the Kurds, is really vital to US interests. Its really what goes on inside Iraq.

The United States and allies are doing mostly an air campaign. An air campaign without somebody to take the ground is very problematic. That either has to be the Kurdish Peshmerga or the Iraqi army, or the Sunni tribes themselves. Its very problematic if the Shia militias gets deeply involved. So, we haven’t seen signs of that yet.

And what we have seen from ISIS is they’ve been pretty smart about picking where to try to advance and not overstretch.

So, we have an enemy that appears fairly competent, and we really haven’t seen a coalition strategy that’s really shown it has the capacity to exploit the weaknesses of ISIS in Iraq.

(Photo credit: dpa)