from From the Potomac to the Euphrates and Middle East Program

Fiddling While Kobani Burns

October 8, 2014 11:00 am (EST)

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This article was originally published here on on Tuesday, October 7, 2014.

Last week, the Turkish Grand National Assembly voted to authorize the use of force in Syria and Iraq. Turkish legislators also voted to permit the deployment of foreign forces in Turkey for the purpose of fighting against the Islamic State (IS). The votes were heralded in the Turkish and U.S. media as proof that Ankara is a dependable ally in the ongoing battle against the Islamic State. So why are Turkish forces sitting idly along the border while jihadist militants advance toward the border?

The Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani, along the Turkish frontier, is on the verge of falling to IS. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared Tuesday that a ground invasion will be necessary to rescue the city. But Ankara has stood by for weeks as the jihadists have laid siege to the city. Even while Erdogan insists that it will take a ground invasion to keep Kobani from the hands of the self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Turkish tanks stand sentry along the border within view of the fight, doing little more than observing.

It turns out that Turkey’s authorization of the use of force was less about fighting Baghdadi than about giving Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu the maximum amount of domestic political flexibility given the multiple dilemmas the Turkish government confronts in Syria, Iraq, with the Kurds, and at home.

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