In this Q and A, Hugh Pope, deputy director of Crisis Group’s Europe and Central Asia Program, discusses Turkey’s latest change in policy towards Syria, Iraq and the coalition against Islamic State.
Does the parliamentary resolution accepted on 2 October 2014 – authorizing Turkish troops to be deployed over the border and foreign armed forces to be based in Turkey – mean that Turkey is going to war in Syria or Iraq?
No cross-border action is likely, at least not yet. There is confusion in the Turkish capital as the government feels its way towards the safest of several dangerous courses. One Turkish newspaper splashed a headline this week about how, if necessary, “We’ll Go in Alone”. A few dozen Turkish tanks have been sent to the border and several thousand troops moved up in reserve. But Turkey is only inching towards direct action. Turkey’s defence minister says the government has no immediate plan to use the new authority to send troops abroad or accept foreign troops in order “to counter any possible attack on our country from all terrorist organisations in Iraq and Syria”. Instead, the main purpose appears to be to deter Islamic State jihadis from taking on Turkey, and perhaps to signal both determination and impatience to Turkey’s Western allies.