Why isn’t U.S. tougher on Turkey’s hesitance to fight ISIS?

McClatchy reports: Last fall, when faced with questions about why NATO partner and regional ally Turkey wasn’t pulling its weight in the fight against the Islamic State, Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that there was “no discrepancy” between U.S. and Turkish policy on the extremists and said Ankara would define its role on its own timetable.

Eight months later, that role is as undefined as ever, and Washington is no more likely to criticize Turkey for it.

Analysts of Turkey’s foreign policy say that Ankara’s often contradictory measures and messages come from two main sources: pockets of Islamic State sympathizers within the leadership, and the broader alarm over Kurdish land grabs as a result of the Syrian conflict. Ankara’s mission is ensuring that the Kurds next door don’t gain ground for a future autonomous state that could affect Turkey’s own conflict with its large Kurdish population. The Kurdish YPG militia in Syria, with U.S. assistance, has scored several recent military victories over the Islamic State, a situation that has drawn criticism, not praise, from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

But the analysts also acknowledge that Turkey remains unhappy that the Obama administration won’t more aggressively help topple the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad and hasn’t outlined how it would protect Turkey from Islamic State retaliation or an influx of even more refugees; thanks to the Syrian civil war, Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country.

In short, the analysts say, how could the Obama administration expect Turkey to do more when the United States has not provided a clear idea of objectives or identified an acceptable on-the-ground partner in Syria? [Continue reading…]

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