Category Archives: Turkey

Obama BFF Alert: Turkey fears a Kurdistan more than the Islamic State

Members of the Kurdish PeopleTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ‘zero problems with neighbours’ policy unravelled when the Syrian uprising erupted in March 2011. Not taking sides was itself a choice, and after Bashar al-Assad lied to the face of Erdogan’s foreign minister about his intention to murder unarmed protesters, Erdogan decided to get rid of Assad at all costs. Erdogan bet on trying to condition a Muslim Brotherhood-led post-Assad government in Syria.

Erdogan opened Turkey’s border to anyone who wanted to fight Assad, though Ankara had favourites. In 2012, the Free Syrian Army-branded rebels — nationalist, democratic, and essentially secular — were overwhelmingly dominant, yet Turkey (and Qatar) poured resources into strengthening Brotherhood-sympathetic rebel units. The March 2013 Turkey-PKK ceasefire led to signs of a working relationship with the PKK’s Syrian offshoot, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), at least to protect Turkey’s 565-mile border with Syria. That triangulation ended in the autumn of 2014. Many Kurds believe the open-border policy to the Salafiist jihadists was intended to thwart a Kurdish statelet in northern Syria. The Turkish bombardment that hit PYD positions on Monday and the evidence that Ankara’s turnaround on targeting ISIS and letting the US use its territory to do so was influenced by Syrian Kurdish territorial gains is not going to calm the suspicions Turkey supports Islamist extremists to block Kurdish autonomy.

Turkish support for Ahrar al-Sham — the most extreme Syrian insurgent group, with links to Al-Qaeda and a close battlefield alliance with Al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch, Jabhat al-Nusra — is hardly a secret. Turkey flatly told the Americans that it regarded Ahrar and Nusra as reconcilable elements that could form a supportable post-Assad government. Turkish support for Ahrar could be seen in the fall of the city of Idlib in March to the Jaysh al-Fateh  insurgent coalition, which Ahrar effectively leads.

In a recent op-ed for The Washington Post, Ahrar’s foreign political officer made no mention of Turkey’s or Qatar’s support and instead said that the seamless reconstitution of Ahrar after its leadership was eradicated in a mysterious bombing last September testified to “the high level of institutionalism and professionalism” of the group and its “deep support […] within the local population.” But this isn’t true, according to Hassan Hassan, a fellow at Chatham House and co-author of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror. “The only reason Ahrar survived is because of Turkish logistical support and Qatari money,” Hassan told me.

Turkey’s support for Jaysh al-Fateh also confirmed the more serious allegation that Ankara was supporting Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, since Nusra is part of Jaysh al-Fateh. Nusra had clearly taken advantage of Turkey’s open-door policy on anti-Assad foreign fighters, and there had been plausible reports that Turkey’s support to Nusra was more direct — with Turkish intelligence shipping weapons to Nusra, for example.

The most electric allegation is that Turkey supports ISIS. While ISIS’s emergence in April 2013 sparked a bitter intra-jihadist feud in Syria, it had less effect on the networks — e.g. in the Balkans — bringing Salafist jihadists from all over the world to the Fertile Crescent, most of them through Turkey. This was also true for a time inside Syria. The ambiguity over ISIS’s status within Al-Qaeda until its expulsion in February 2014 allowed ISIS to capitalize on streams of Salafist funding, as did the lax environment Turkey provided for such fundraisers, who were pretty openly “camped out in hotels along the southeastern Turkish frontier,” as Jonathan Schanzer, of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, put it in testimony to Congress earlier this year. Funding intended for Nusra could thus, in 2013 and early 2014, easily go astray. But this could suggest confusion or benign neglect, rather than direct support from Turkey to ISIS.

When I asked Schanzer by email whether the oft-made accusation that a NATO Member State is supporting ISIS had any merit, he said: “If support is flowing to [Nusra], it is undoubtedly flowing to the other jihadi groups, too.” “Had Turkey done more to shut down its […] border with ISIS, there would be significantly fewer foreign fighters,” he added. “Had Turkey clamped down on the oil sales, antiquities smuggling, gun-running and cash transfers, ISIS would be significantly hobbled financially.” In short, ISIS is a lot stronger today than it would have been if Ankara had pursued a different policy.

Buttressing Schanzer’s findings, documents recovered after the US raid into Syria in May that killed ISIS’s ‘oil minister,’ Abu Sayyaf, provide the clearest evidence yet of “direct dealings between Turkish officials and ranking ISIS members.” When ISIS smuggled oil from captured fields in eastern Syria, the majority went through Turkish buyers. One American official told the Guardian that even before all the data had been analysed, “the links [between ISIS and Turkey] are already so clear that they could end up having profound policy implications for the relationship between us and Ankara.”

Turkey’s problem now, having ostensibly recognized that ISIS is a menace, is that when ISIS brags, “If they close the borders we will cause civil and economic chaos,” it is not an empty threat, as the suicide bombing in Istanbul in January 2015 demonstrated. Turkey has evidently known about some of ISIS’s sleeper cells for some time, but it can’t know about them all and they could devastate Turkey’s tourist industry — which provides 4.6 percent of its GDP directly and much more indirectly — or even cause wide-scale internal strife in Turkey where the flow of Syrian refugees has upset the fragile sectarian balance in the east.

What Turkey intends with the attacks on ISIS is uncertain. Without Turkey, the anti-ISIS coalition is fundamentally hollow, but Turkey is very unlikely to have altered its (correct) analysis that Assad must go before ISIS since Assad is the premier spur to Islamist militancy. More likely, Turkey has been spooked by the PYD’s gains along its border — enabled by US airstrikes — and has determined to take a larger hand in deciding who replaces ISIS in these areas, while procuring tacit US approval for a wider campaign against the PKK. Put simply, Turkey fears a Kurdish state more than the Islamic State, and unless these airstrikes are accompanied by moves to shut down the cross-border networks that have kept ISIS financially afloat, they are something more like enforcing a redline on ISIS’s behaviour, and perhaps also an attempt at strategic messaging.

Turkey’s government justly feels aggrieved at Western policy over Syria. Erdogan got out way in front of his population in calling for Assad’s downfall and had a right to expect collective NATO action after Assad shot down a Turkish jet in June 2012. The feeling in Ankara that they have been left holding the bag is essentially true, and the anger in Turkey that the US is increasingly aligned with Assad is understandable. But the methods Turkey adopted in its go-it-alone anti-Assad policy after the US stopped trying to topple Assad mean that when Turkey claims to be a victim of terrorism after incidents like the Suruc massacre by ISIS on 20 July, this is at best half-true. The victims of what would be called, if it happened to Westerners, ‘blowback,’ are the Turkish people.

Kyle Orton is a Middle East analyst. He tweets @KyleWOrton

Obama BFF Turkey caught playing with ISIS

Turkish air strikes in Syria last week signalled a new phase in a conflict that has left its bloody mark on every country in the region. But will the Turks now agree to US demands to cease all clandestine dealings with Islamic State?
Demonstrators march suicide bomb
Demonstrators march with a poster showing the faces of victims of the July 22 suicide bomb attack Photograph: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images

When US special forces raided the compound of an Islamic State leader in eastern Syria in May, they made sure not to tell the neighbours.

The target of that raid, the first of its kind since US jets returned to the skies over Iraq last August, was an Isis official responsible for oil smuggling, named Abu Sayyaf. He was almost unheard of outside the upper echelons of the terror group, but he was well known to Turkey. From mid-2013, the Tunisian fighter had been responsible for smuggling oil from Syria’s eastern fields, which the group had by then commandeered. Black market oil quickly became the main driver of Isis revenues – and Turkish buyers were its main clients.

As a result, the oil trade between the jihadis and the Turks was held up as evidence of an alliance between the two. It led to protests from Washington and Europe – both already wary of Turkey’s 900-mile border with Syria being used as a gateway by would-be jihadis from around the world.

The estimated $1m-$4m per day in oil revenues that was thought to have flowed into Isis coffers over at least six months from late 2013 helped to transform an ambitious force with limited means into a juggernaut that has been steadily drawing western forces back to the region and increasingly testing state borders.

Across the region, violence has been spreading across borders, scattering huge numbers of refugees and contributing to the turmoil in neighbouring regimes. Few countries – from Turkey to Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Israel – remain unscathed by the tide of chaos spreading out from Syria.

Despite one year of air strikes aimed at crippling the group’s spread, Isis remains entrenched in northern and eastern Syria, in control of much of western Iraq and camped on Lebanon’s eastern border. Its offshoots are gathering steam in north Africa and now, more than at any time since the latest incarnation of Isis emerged, its leaders claim to be positioning the group for strikes well outside the territory that it now controls.

In the wake of the raid that killed Abu Sayyaf, suspicions of an undeclared alliance have hardened. One senior western official familiar with the intelligence gathered at the slain leader’s compound said that direct dealings between Turkish officials and ranking Isis members was now “undeniable”.

“There are hundreds of flash drives and documents that were seized there,” the official told the Observer. “They are being analysed at the moment, but the links are already so clear that they could end up having profound policy implications for the relationship between us and Ankara.”

On Thursday, nearly one year into the US-led air campaign against Isis, Turkey dropped its opposition to entering the fray, dispatching fighter jets to its border from where they fired rockets at Isis targets just inside Syria. The attacks were a response to a suicide bombing in the southern province of Suruc, which killed 32 people, and an earlier cross-border attack that killed a Turkish soldier.

The attacks were the first to be blamed on Isis and led to a strong backlash among some sections of Turkish society, where unease at Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s stance towards the insurgency was already running high. Turkey also said it would allow its Incirlik air base to be used as a staging point for attacks against Isis – backing down from its earlier insistence that some form of safe haven first be established inside Syria, in which refugees and mainstream opposition fighters could safely move.

Throughout much of the chaos that has enveloped Syria, which started as an insurrection against the regime of Bashar al-Assad and has been partly subsumed by the Isis brand of global jihad, Erdogan has insisted that the Syrian leader’s crackdown has been a rallying call for the jihadis and must be dealt with before Isis can be countered.

However, Turkey has openly supported other jihadi groups, such as Ahrar al-Sham, which espouses much of al-Qaida’s ideology, and Jabhat al-Nusra, which is proscribed as a terror organisation by much of the US and Europe. “The distinctions they draw [with other opposition groups] are thin indeed,” said the western official. “There is no doubt at all that they militarily cooperate with both.”

European officials have regularly said they have gained no traction trying to raise either organisation with Ankara and have long been warned off trying. Isis, though, has gradually been recognised as a force that can no longer be contained or managed. “We can talk about them now,” said a European official in Ankara. “As long as we describe them as ‘those who abuse religion’.

“This isn’t an overhaul of their thinking. It’s more a reaction to what they’ve been confronted with by the Americans and others. There is at least a recognition now that Isis isn’t leverage against Assad. They have to be dealt with.”

As Turkey wrestles with a new posture, Isis is entrenched along a swath of its southern border extending from its main border crossing with Syria at Killis to Hasakah in eastern Syria. Isis has reinforced its arc in the area in an attempt to safeguard the gateway to its self-declared caliphate, which remains its only viable supply line of people and merchandise.

The oil-smuggling operation run by Abu Sayyaf has been cut drastically, although tankers carrying crude drawn from makeshift refineries still make it to the border. One Isis member says the organisation remains a long way from establishing a self-sustaining economy across the area of Syria and Iraq it controls. “They need the Turks. I know of a lot of cooperation and it scares me,” he said. “I don’t see how Turkey can attack the organisation too hard. There are shared interests.”

The Isis member said the US-led air campaign had done almost nothing to change the extent of the group’s reach, which still includes most of eastern Syria and western Iraq, where Iraq’s security forces, led by Shia militia groups, have been unable to claw back losses since the fall of Ramadi in May.

On the Syrian-Lebanese border, however, the farthest west that Isis operates, a protracted battle with Hezbollah and Syrian troops is gradually tipping in favour of the Shia militant group. Hezbollah has led the push against Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra, who have been entrenched in the town of Zabadani, west of Damascus – a fight well inside Syria, which it says is necessary to protect Lebanon’s porous border.

“We are at a phase in this war where things that have been in the shadows for a long time are now being exposed to daylight,” said the western official. “Hezbollah is dominant in the west of Syria, and the Turkish role, however you wish to define it, is also becoming clearer. This is an important time for them. Will they now see Isis as a threat to their own sovereignty? Assad played with Isis and lost. The Turks will, too. A lot of damage has been done from this.”

US and Turkey to create ISIS free buffer zone in Syria

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News Agencies//The United States and Turkey are finalizing plans for a military campaign to push the Islamic State out of a strip of land along the Turkey-Syria border, deepening efforts to halt the extremists’ advances.

A US official says the “Islamic State-free zone” aims to ensure greater security and stability along the border. However, the official says any joint military efforts with Turkey would not include the imposition of a no-fly zone.

Smoke rises from the Kurdish city of Kobani in Syria near the Turkish border. (Photo: Reuters)
Smoke rises from the Kurdish city of Kobani in Syria near the Turkish border. (Photo: Reuters)

Turkey has been pushing the US to set up a no-fly zone, though Washington has long denied those requests. Turkey did agree last week to let the US launch strikes against the Islamic State from one of its bases. The official insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the talks with Turkey.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish YPG militia on Monday captured a town from Islamic State fighters in northern Syria after a month-long offensive against the ultra hard-line militants in the area to cut their supply lines, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Observatory said the town near the Euphrates River was a launch pad for Islamic State to wage raids on the Kurdish-held town of Kobani further north at the border with Turkey. US-led air strikes assisted the Kurds in the assault, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory.

Conflicting Strategy

Turkish troops however, shelled positions held by the Kurdish fighters who were battling the Islamic State group with the aid of the US, Syria’s main Kurdish militia and an activist group said Monday.

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, said the Sunday night shelling on the border village of Til Findire targeted one of their vehicles. It said Til Findire is east of the border town of Kobani, where the Kurds handed a major defeat to the Islamic State group earlier this year.

A Turkish airstrike against ISIS positions.
A Turkish airstrike against ISIS positions.

In cross-border strikes since Friday, Turkey has targeted both Kurdish fighters as well as ISIS, stepping up its involvement in Syria’s increasingly complex civil war. The Syrian Kurds are among the most effective ground forces battling ISIS group, but Turkey fears they could revive an insurgency against Ankara in pursuit of an independent state.

A Turkish official said Turkish forces are only targeting Islamic State forces in Syria and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in neighboring Iraq. The official said the “ongoing military operation seeks to neutralize imminent threats to Turkey’s national security and continues to target ISIS in Syria and the PKK in Iraq.”

“The PYD, along with others, remains outside the scope of the current military effort,” the official said, referring to the political arm of the YPG. The official added that authorities were “investigating claims that the Turkish military engaged positions held by forces other than ISIS.”

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of rules that bar officials from speaking to journalists without authorization. The YPG did not say in its Monday statement whether there were casualties in the shelling.

Obama BFF Turkey strikes the Kurds in Iraq and ISIS in Syria

Nice Turkey is now attacking  our ally the Kurds, the only ones fighting against ISIS.. ed

“We have given instructions for a third series of strikes in Syria and Iraq. Air and ground operations are under way,” Davutoglu told reporters in Ankara.

“No one should doubt out determination,” he added. “We will not allow Turkey to be turned into a lawless country.”

Turkey had early Saturday carried out a second wave of the air strikes it says are aimed at extinguishing terror threats, this time hitting not just ISIS targets in Syria but also Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq.

The strikes against PKK targets are likely to be a major blow to the stalled Kurdish peace process.

In a statement posted on the PKK website on Saturday, the group said truce with turkey has “no meaning anymore” after last night’s military attacks.

Fighter jets hit PKK targets in several locations in northern Iraq, including warehouses, “logistic points,” living quarters and storage buildings, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s office said.

The outlawed PKK, deemed a terrorist organization by Ankara and Washington, has waged a three-decade insurgency against Turkey for greater Kurdish autonomy.

First airstrikes in Syria

Along with the strikes in Iraq, Turkey launched its first-ever air attack against ISIS targets in Syria early on Friday, promising more decisive action against both the militant and Kurdish militants.

Turkey stepped up its role in the U.S.-led coalition against the militant group ISIS on Friday. As well as launching its first air strikes against the hardliners in Syria, it promised to open up its air bases to the United States.

In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the U.N. Security Council, Turkey justified its decision to conduct air strikes in Syria against ISIS militants claiming the Syrian government was neither capable nor willing to tackle the radical Islamist group.

Turkey’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Levent Eler cited Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, which covers an individual or collective right to self-defense against armed attack, as justification for its action.

“It is apparent that the regime in Syria is neither capable of nor willing to prevent these threats emanating from its territory which clearly imperil the security of Turkey and safety of its nationals,” he wrote in the letter, seen by Reuters.

“Syria has become a safe haven for (ISIS). This area is used by (ISIS) for training, planning, financing and carrying out attacks across borders,” he added.

Raids on ISIS, PKK affiliates

Police also detained  590 suspected ISIS and PKK members in a crack down on Friday, Davutoglu said after vowing to fight all “terrorist groups” equally.

Turkey’s more active role comes after a suspected ISIS suicide bomber killed 32 people, some of them Kurds, this week in the border town of Suruc. That touched off a wave of violence in the mainly Kurdish southeast, with the PKK killing at least two police officers, calling it retaliation for the suicide bombing.

Many Kurds and opposition supporters have suspected Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling AK Party of covertly backing ISIS against Kurdish fighters in Syria, something the government has repeatedly denied.

Separately, the Istanbul authorities on Saturday banned a planned anti-militant “peace march” scheduled to take place in the Turkish metropolis this weekend, citing security and traffic congestion.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has hoped to rally thousands on Sunday for the protest to condemn violence by ISIS militants following a suicide bombing on Monday that killed 32.

But the Istanbul governor’s office said in a statement that the rally had been banned due to “intense traffic” expected in the city and also “provocations” endangering security.

The HDP confirmed in a statement that it had been forced to cancel the rally but vowed that “our struggle for peace and democracy will continue.”

Erdogan took a big political risk in starting peace talks in 2012 with the Kurds, who represent nearly 20 percent of Turkey’s population, but they now blame him for backtracking on promises.

On Friday, Erdogan said he had told U.S. President Barack Obama that the PKK, which he calls a separatist organization, would be a focus for attacks.

Obama BFF Turkey: Writers Go On Trial for Printing Charlie Hebdo Cartoons

Charges of “inciting public hatred” and “insulting religious values” were brought against Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Cetinkaya by over 100 plaintiffs including close relatives of President Erdogan (pictured above).

AFP reports that although many of the plaintiffs attended the first hearing on Thursday, Karan and Cetinkaya, both writers at the centre-left secular newspaper Cumhuriyet which is strongly critical of Erdogan’s Presidency, were no shows saying they were out of Istanbul on business. The hearing was adjourned to 12 October.

In January Cumhuriyet published a four-page Turkish language sample of Charlie Hebdo. It commemorated the satirical weekly’s first issue following the Islamist terrorist attack that killed 12 people at its offices. While it did not include the front cover featuring Mohammed, a smaller version of the cartoon was twice used inside the main newspaper to illustrate columns on the subject by Karan and Cetinkaya.

An editorial in that newspaper said the Charlie Hebdo cover drawing did not seem to have “anything to do with Prophet Mohammed. That drawing is a symbol of a humane and conscientious attitude and it says, ‘All is forgiven.’” Nevertheless CNN reports people called the Cumhuriyet offices following publication to issue death threats.

At the time Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan described the publication as “open incitement and provocation”, adding: “Those who are publishing figures referring to our supreme Prophet are those who disregard the sacred.”

President Erdogan’s son, daughter and son-in-law (Berat Albayrak, elected to the Turkish Parliament in June) asked to be plaintiffs in the case. This comes at a time of  growing domestic and international concern about the numbers of journalists facing legal proceedings in Turkey, many on accusations of insulting the President.

Erdogan himself caused outrage in the run-up to Turkey’s June election when he said the Cumhuriyet newspaper editor-in-chief would “pay a heavy price” for a front-page story alleging proof that Turkey had sent arms to Syrian rebels.

The chilling effect of political pressure on the Turkish media is of particular interest to European observers conscious of the fact the country hopes to become a member of the European Union.

Turkey has been an associate member of the EU, in its various forms, since 1963. It applied for full membership of what was the European Economic Community in April 1987, however it faced an uphill struggle achieving that even before Erdogan, with his roots in Islamist politics, became President.

Austria, Germany and France are all strong opponents of Turkish accession. In addition opinion polls in the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK all suggest majorities opposing it in those countries even when, as in the case of British Prime Minister David Cameron, the political classes support it.

Obama BFF’s Turkey Plans to Invade Syria, But to Stop the Kurds, Not ISIS

Boots on the Ground

The Turkish military is not enthusiastic and Washington may have its doubts, but President Erdogan appears determined to set up a buffer zone.

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is planning a military intervention into northern Syria to prevent Syrian Kurds from forming their own state there, despite concerns among his own generals and possible criticism from Washington and other NATO allies, according to reports in both pro- and anti-government media.

In a speech last Friday, Erdogan vowed that Turkey would not accept a move by Syrian Kurds to set up their own state in Syria following gains by Kurdish fighters against the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, in recent weeks. “I am saying this to the whole world: We will never allow the establishment of a state on our southern border in the north of Syria,” Erdogan said. “We will continue our fight in that respect whatever the cost may be.” He accused Syrian Kurds of ethnic cleansing in Syrian areas under their control.

After the speech, several news outlets reported that the president and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had decided to send the Turkish army into Syria, a hugely significant move by NATO’s second-biggest fighting force after the U.S. military. Both the daily Yeni Safak, a mouthpiece of the government, and the newspaper Sozcu, which is among Erdogan’s fiercest critics, ran stories saying the Turkish Army had received orders to send soldiers over the border. Several other media had similar stories, all quoting unnamed sources in Ankara. There has been no official confirmation or denial by the government.

The government refused to comment on the reports. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said “the necessary statement” would be issued after a regular meeting of the National Security Council, which comprises the president, the government and military leaders, this Tuesday.

The reports said up to 18,000 soldiers would be deployed to take over and hold a strip of territory up to 30 kilometers deep and 100 kilometers long that is held by ISIS. It stretches from close to the Kurdish-controlled city of Kobani in the east to an area further west held by the pro-Western Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other rebel groups, beginning around the town of Mare. This “Mare Line,” as the press calls it, is to be secured with ground troops, artillery and air cover, the reports said. Yeni Safak reported preparations were due to be finalized by next Friday.

There has been speculation about a Turkish military intervention ever since the Syrian conflict began in 2011. Ankara has asked the United Nations and its Western allies to give the green light to create a buffer zone and a no-fly area inside Syria to prevent chaos along the Turkish border and to help refugees on Syrian soil before they cross over into Turkey. But the Turkish request has fallen on deaf ears.

The latest reports fit Erdogan’s statement on Friday and the government position regarding recent gains by Syrian Kurds against the Islamic State. The Syrian Kurdish party PYD and its armed wing YPG, affiliates of the Turkish-Kurdish rebel group PKK, have secured a long band of territory in northern Syria from the Syrian-Iraqi border in the east to Kobani.

Ankara is concerned that the Kurds will now turn their attention to the area west of Kobani and toward Mare to link up with the Kurdish area of Afrin, thereby connecting all Kurdish areas in Syria along the border with Turkey. Erdogan expects that the Syrian Kurds, whose advance against ISIS has been helped by airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition, will go on to form their own state as Syria disintegrates after more than four years of war.

PYD leader Saleh Muslim denied that Syria’s Kurds intend to do this.

But Turkey’s leaders are not convinced that is true. The daily Hurriyet reported Erdogan and Davutoglu wanted to “kill two birds with one stone” with a military intervention along the Mare Line. One aim would be to drive ISIS away from the Turkish border, depriving the jihadists of their last foothold on the frontier and thereby cutting off supply lines. Such a move would tie in with the U.S. strategy to contain and weaken ISIS.

A second goal of the operation would be closer to Ankara’s own interests. The English-language Hurriyet Daily News quoted one source saying there was a need to  “prevent the PYD from taking full control over the Turkish-Syrian border,” and also to create a zone on Syrian territory rather than in Turkey to take in new waves of refugees.

But the military is reluctant, the reports said. Generals told the government that Turkish troops could come up against ISIS, Kurds, and Syrian government troops and get drawn into the Syrian quagmire. Retaliation attacks by ISIS and Kurdish militants on Turkish territory are another concern.

Finally, the soldiers pointed to the international dimension. The military leadership told the government that the international community might get the impression that Turkey’s intervention was directed against Syria’s Kurds, the newspaper Haberturk reported.

Turkey’s NATO partners, some of whom have deployed troops operating Patriot missile defense units near the Syrian border to shield member country Turkey against possible attacks from Syria, are unlikely to be happy with a Turkish intervention.

Turkey’s pro-government press insisted there were no tensions between civilian and military leaders in Ankara. “If the government says ‘go,’ we will go in,” the pro-Erdogan daily Aksam wrote, attempting to sum up the military’s stance in a headline.

On Sunday, fighting broke out between ISIS troops and FSA units near the town of Azaz, close to the Turkish border crossing of Oncupinar. News reports said ISIS was trying to bring the Syrian side of the border crossing under its control. The area of the latest clashes lies within the “Mare Line” cited as the possible location of a Turkish incursion.