Turkey is an ally of the United States in the effort to find a solution to the conflict in Syria. The conflict has been going on for five years now and has grown increasingly complicated. It has become more than just a fight between Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and anti-government rebels. In the wake of the fighting between the two sides local players that have a stake of their own have risen up. The Islamic State has expanded into Syria and now poses an even greater threat to the region. It is getting close to the Syrian border with Turkey. So, Turkey has an interest in pushing back the Islamic State.
The Relationship between Turkey and the United States
Relations between Turkey and the United States have been difficult recently. Turkey went through an attempt at a military coup d’état this July. The country is still recovering from it, having recently extended the state of emergency that it had declared right after the coup. During the events, Turkey felt that the United States weren’t showing enough support in what was to them a clear attempt to overthrow democracy and rule of law.
Another issue between Turkey and the United States is Sufi cleric Fethullah Gülen. The Turkish cleric has lived in the United States since 1999. Turkish officials believe that he is responsible for orchestrating the failed coup d’état. They have repeatedly asked the United States to extradite Fethullah Gülen. The United States has asked for evidence supporting those claims before reaching a decision.
However, Turkey has taken a cautious approach and chosen to deal with separate issues separately. Even though Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been talking to Russian president Vladimir V. Putin more and more lately. Turkey remains a NATO country and is still committed to handling the situation in Syria. Turkey is a country where the majority of the population is Muslim, but it is a secular country. So, naturally, Turkey perceives the Islamic State as a threat.
Turkey’s Role in the Operation to Seize Raqqa
This Wednesday, the United States Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter talked about attempts that the United States is trying to make to get Turkey to join the effort to take back Raqqa. The city of Raqqa is the main stronghold of the Islamic State in Syria. The United States feels that Turkey should play a role in the operation to seize Raqqa. But how big a role is currently the topic of talks between the United States and Turkey. Secretary Carter made these comments at a news conference this Wednesday.
The comments from US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter come after Turkey made public its views on how best to fight the Islamic State. After taking Mosul from the Islamic State and after operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria, Turkey would like to see the operation to seize Raqqa start.
Secretary Carter said that there will be further talks with Turkey about its role. But he added that the United States is proceeding with the operation to take Raqqa according to its own plan. Also, the US Secretary of Defense had previously said that the operation to seize Raqqa is likely to overlap with the effort to retake Mosul.
“We intend to go there soon with the force that is capable of doing that and enveloping the city of Raqqa… the final seizure of Raqqa, we continue to talk to Turkey about that and a possible role for Turkey in that further down the road,”
said US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.
Image source: Department of Defense