Turkey says it won't fight ISIS alone
The 300,000 strong Turkish army will not engage ISIS forces currently attacking the strategic Kurdish border town of Kobani alone. It is believed that the attackers number no more than 9,000 fighters.
The statement by Turkey's foreign minister is part of an extortion gambit by the government of President Erdogan. In exchange for Turkish action, Erdogan is demanding a no fly zone be established, a humanitarian corridor be created, and other ground forces - particularly from the US - also engage the enemy.
Meanwhile, in renewed attacks after being pushed back by air strikes yesterday, ISIS forces have taken about a third of Kobani and threaten to overrun the town in a matter of hours.
"It is not realistic to expect Turkey to conduct a ground operation on its own," he told a joint news conference with visiting NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg. However, he added: "We are holding talks.... Once there is a common decision, Turkey will not hold back from playing its part."
Ankara resents any suggestion from Washington that it is not pulling its weight, but wants broader joint action that also targets the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "We strongly reject allegations of Turkish responsibility for the ISIS advance," said a senior Ankara government source.
"Our allies, especially the U.S. administration, dragged their feet for a very long time before deciding to take action against the catastrophic events happening in Syria," he added.
Turkey has long advocated action against Assad during the civil war, which grew out of a popular uprising in 2011. However, the United States called off air strikes on Damascus government forces at the last minute last year when Assad agreed to give up his chemical weapons.
President Tayyip Erdogan says he wants the U.S.-led alliance to enforce a "no-fly zone" to prevent Assad's air force flying over Syrian territory near the Turkish border and create a safe area for an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey to return.
But Stoltenberg said that establishing a no-fly zone or a safe zone inside Syria has not been discussed by NATO.
There is some trepidation among Kurds that if Turkey were to intervene, they'd attack Kurdish fighters as well as ISIS. There is certainly a reluctance on the part of Turkey to do anything to strengthen the Kurds, but any attack on them while they have their backs to the wall fighting ISIS would probably lead to a general Kurdish insurrection in Turkey.
But while their concern seems misplaced, Erdogan is asking for a lot just to kick a few thousand terrorists away from a border town. It is not likely that the rest of NATO will grant him his conditions, so unless ISIS does something stupid like attack the Turkish army in Turkey, Erdogan is going to sit this one out.