With the fighting in Kobani now street-to-street, and about 150,000 Kurds trapped in the city with tens of thousands of refugees across the border, Turkey’s leaders are finally contemplating direct action. As the Wall Street Journal reports:
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday the besieged Syrian city of Kobani was in imminent danger of falling to Islamic State and called on the U.S.-led coalition fighting the radical group to bolster its air raids with ground operations. [….] During a visit to a refugee camp in the border province of Gaziantep, Mr. Erdogan declared Kobani was “about to fall” and said the air campaign wasn’t enough. “You can’t end this terrorism just by airstrikes. If you don’t support them on the ground, by cooperating with those who take up a ground operation, the airstrikes won’t do it,” he said.
Kobani, an otherwise little-known town on the Turkish border has turned into a sort of Kurdish Alamo. Despite intense American bombing of ISIS positions, ISIS has continued to gain ground, is now engaged in street clashes and dominates the strategic positions around the town. The BBC is now reporting that a lack of Turkish action has sparked Kurdish protests throughout that country. Turkey’s Prime Minister, in an interview with CNN, expanded upon Erdogan’s comment and hinted at what Turkey’s strategic conditions for intervening may be, saying:
Turkey would be willing to put its troops on the ground in Syria “if others do their part,” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview that aired Monday.“We are ready to do everything if there is a clear strategy that after ISIS, we can be sure that our border will be protected. We don’t want the regime anymore on our border pushing people against — towards Turkey. We don’t want other terrorist organizations to be active there.”“We want this humanitarian policy on the other side of the border. Second: military strategy, security. If there is there any threat against our national security, we will take all the measures — all the measures.”
The question now is whether Turkey will act in time to rescue the town, or, if the town falls, what Turkey and the United States will do to change their respective strategies in the face of massive humanitarian suffering and continued ISIS victories.