Turkey Should Counter ISIS in Syria

How much influence should the United States have in Syria and Iraq in countering Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)? Over the last several months, the situation for the United States’ military has changed as the Islamic State began its conquest over Kobani, a Syrian city on Turkey’s southern border. The United States has bombed ISIS 19 times in the last two months, trying to protect Kobani and to limit the Islamic State’s reach. Meanwhile, the Turkish government has allowed Kurdish fighters to cross through Turkey into Syria to counter ISIS but has refused to use force itself. 

Why can’t Turkey defend its own border? Turkey, understandably, does not want to get more heavily involved in Syria’s conflicts, whether in terms of the civil war or ISIS attempting to take over regions in northern Syria. These conflicts have already proven problematic for the Turks, as the number of Syrians seeking refuge in Turkey has topped one million. Turkey has already spent a large amount of money on Syrian refugee camps and the economy in the south of the country has weakened, further discouraging it to extend its influence across borders. However, the United States has made financial contributions to help the refugees and has fought off ISIS. Turkey has the resources to do the same and should do so. 

The United States is not bombing in Syria to defend Turkey. Turkey has a powerful defense force and does not need the United States to protect it from ISIS’s nonexistent threat to its border. Since the Turkish army has been positioned on their side of the border, staring down at Kobani from only a few hundred meters away, it should be the first force to counter ISIS there. The issue of ISIS taking over cities in northern Syria is only a regional conflict. America’s current interest in Syria is quite different than its targeted air strikes on ISIS in Iraq, which are used to protect American political interests. The United States would not be at a major disadvantage if they chose not to defend a Syrian city from being taken over. ISIS in northern Syria poses a much larger threat to the Kurds and Syrians living in the region than to any Western interests. Turkey, with one of NATO’s strongest defense systems, is not threatened by ISIS near its border, and could bomb ISIS like the U.S. is doing without getting heavily involved in a war. Unfortunately, Turkey is responsible for pushing ISIS off Kobani as the region’s strongest and most capable power.

For the United States, fighting ISIS in Syria is a different game than fighting it in Iraq. First, the United States has a vested interest in Iraq after the war took American lives and cost the United States billions of dollars. Politically speaking, it is much easier for the Obama administration to stay out of Syria than Iraq since the United States is not already similarly invested there. President Obama would be heavily criticized if the United States engaged formally in Syria, but the public is more understanding towards a heavy bombing campaign in Iraq since the U.S. does not want to let Iraq slip and negate the progress made by our troops. Countering ISIS in Syria should not be a concern for the United States and avoiding conflict will be politically easy.