The Turkish Parliament is expected to approve a proposal on Thursday that would authorize cross-border military operations to fight jihadists in Iraq and Syria. Ankara is also likely to vote on whether allied countries can use Turkish territory and army bases to fight the Islamic State.
Even after gaining approval for missions inside Syria, Turkey is unlikely to start offensive strikes immediately. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called U.S. airstrikes in Syria only a “temporary” solution to the bloodshed, saying “tons of air bombs will only delay the threat and danger” posed by jihadists. Erdogan nevertheless urged members of his ruling AK party to endorse for the proposal as just one step in a larger effort to ease the conflict.
Turkish tanks near the Syrian border. (Photo: Reuters)
The vote comes as fighting between jihadists and Kurdish forces escalated this week in the Syrian town of Kobane, two weeks after IS first began its assault on the city. Over 150,000, mostly Kurdish refugees in the area have crossed into Turkey to escape the violence. Constant mortar firings can be seen by the Turkish soldiers tasked with protecting the border and stationed just two miles from the city.
Even after weeks of airstrikes, allied forces have been unable to significantly reverse the advance of IS in northern Syria. U.S. forces bombed IS fighters in Kobane amid shelling by the group, but have been unable to dislodge the extremists. Even after engaging local parties on the ground, such as arming Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in Iraq, the West lacks a local partner with a sizeable, well-trained military, and efforts to arm and train “moderate” rebels could take a year or more. Support from their Turkish allies, strategically located along the border with Syria and Iraq, could provide much-needed help to the coalition fight against IS.