By Athanasios Manis
Since the humanitarian crisis in Kobani made its way to world media outlets, the Turkish government has been under constant international and domestic pressure to either intervene militarily in saving Kobani and/or actively assist the overall anti-Islamic State US-led coalition. So far, Turkey has not engaged actively in this coalition. Policy-makers and analysts have been trying to present ideas from a normative rather than analytical perspective. They focus more on why and how Turkey should become more active. The Turkish government is dragging its feet. They find it difficult to engage in actions of micromanagement of the Syrian Civil War if they do not reflect Turkey’s wider strategic interests in Syria. For Turkish policy-makers Kobani is not primarily a case of humanitarian intervention. As a consequence, Turkey observes a ‘wait-and-see’ policy which at best can turn into a ‘step-by-step’ policy. However, Turkey risks the possibility of becoming a passive actor that could lead to it not having a strong voice in a post-war Syria.
So far, the Turkish Government has been resisting participation and even denied the International Coalition the use of Incirlik Air Base against the Islamic State. On top of that, there have even been allegations from founding members of the AKP party, such as Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat, that Turkey has supported “extreme religious groups”. Against the backdrop of inaction in Kobani, one cannot fail to notice that there have been examples of promising activism which, however, are not necessarily related to the war against IS. Initially, the Turkish Parliament with the support of AKP and MHP deputies passed a bill on 2 October renewing the permission given previously to the Turkish government to define the fundamentals for military operations in Syria and Iraq. Turkey has also recently agreed to train and equip the “moderate Syrian opposition” and the Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, pledged Turkey’s support to the population of Kobani. He publicly stated that “In the way we took care of oppressed people in every part of the world, we are determined to reach out to all; Syrian Arabs, Turkmens, Kurds, Christians. Kobani is a historical heritage. We share the fate of our brothers who live there.” In a sense, the Turkish Government did not exclude the possibility of intervention. It seems that they are preparing the ground for that possibility. The two questions that arise at this point are why Turkey oscillates between ‘wait-and-see’ policies and ‘step-by-step’ policies and under which circumstances the Turkish Government would support more action on the ground?