Will Turkish willingness to act against ISIS be blunted by American inaction? After months and months of the Turks dragging their feet in acting against the terror group, it seems like the Obama Administration is now the reluctant party. TAI contributor Michael Weiss, writing at The Daily Beast, reports:
Is a no-fly zone about to be imposed over northern Syria? “No,” says U.S. State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner. Only don’t tell that to Turkey, which has, after months of contentious negotiation, agreed to allow the Incirlik air base at Adana to be used by the U.S.-led coalition to conduct both manned and unmanned airstrikes against ISIS. […]
The use of Incirlik in particular is being described as a possible “game-changer” in the iffy year-long war because now coalition warplanes and drones can take off from a location that is a mere 250 miles from ISIS’s de facto “capital” of Raqqa, as opposed to the 1,250 miles they currently have to fly from land or carrier positions in the Persian Gulf. Drones fly at relatively slow speeds, so dramatically shrinking their proximity to targets means more frequent sorties and spy missions.
Yet Turkish media has also been awash with reports suggesting that as part of the agreement struck with Washington that Ankara would finally get its wish to ground the Syrian Air Force. Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper, citing unnamed sources, claimed on Friday that a no-fly zone would be installed across a “90-kilometer line between Syria’s Mare and Cerablus will be 40 to 50 kilometers deep.”
It looks like Administration won’t take “yes” for an answer—at least not yet. It seems that it’s still at the very least ambiguous about a) getting involved in any meaningful way in Syria and/or b) taking any serious action against the Assad regime.
As Walter Russell Mead wrote this morning, asserting American influence in Syria is, despite the very real risks involved, the best way for the President to reassure our Sunni allies that the Iranian deal is not a dire strategic threat, and the best way to stabilize the region. It appears that (and we know you will be shocked) there are some in the Administration who do not fully agree with us.
America can continue to sit on the sidelines, but that won’t stop others from acting, in ways that range from a bloody Turkish incursion into a Kurdish-heavy area of Syria to renewed Iranian assistance to Assad. History, as they say, is made by those who show up.