Ankara faces difficult choices on ISIL

United States President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron want an international coalition that will fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levent (ISIL). The coalition they propose includes Turkey. The U.S. and Britain are willing to provide air power, weapons and military advice, and expect regional countries to help the Iraqi military fight ISIL effectively on the ground.

This is what was discussed during last week’s NATO summit in Wales and what U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel discussed in Ankara the other day. It will also be the main item on the agenda at the two-day meeting in Saudi Arabia, which will include the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and of course the U.S. that are the driving force behind this meeting.

Saudi Arabia has been warning that ISIL poses a common threat to all and requires a unified stance, suggesting they will join any coalition against ISIL. Egypt, Jordan, and others in the region may do so too. There are serious problems for Turkey though.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been arguing that Ankara has to tread cautiously because of the 49 Turkish hostages, including Turkey’s Mosul Consul General, that are still being held by ISIL militants.

Past experience indicates, however, that Ankara would still be reluctant if there were no hostages involved.

There are a number of reasons for this, including a desire not to appear to be a key member of any Western led military coalition that does not have the approval of the United Nations Security Council against an Islamic nation.

But in this case it has to consider more than just this or the possibility of endangering the lives of the Turks being held by ISIL. Turkish...

Continue reading on: