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October 6, 2014

Turkey reluctant to fight ISIL


As the U.S. and its Arab allies fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Middle East, Turkey has held back amid potential conflicts that could complicate their involvement.

ISIL is a Sunni Muslim militant group that captured a lot of Iraqi territory this summer in its effort to establish a caliphate, an Islamic-ruled state.

The U.S. and United Nations have deemed ISIL a terrorist organization. It has drawn international condemnation for its brutal tactics, including the recent executions of American and British journalists and aid workers.

President Obama recently authorized a series of over 200 airstrikes aimed at ISIL targets in Syria. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar have joined the U.S. in the fight against ISIL.

But Turkey, which borders northern Syria and Iraq, remains reluctant to fight ISIL, since its involvement would complicate other issues in the country, according to NewsHour correspondent Margaret Warner.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has worked to bring down Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  Some of these anti-Assad fighters recently joined ISIL, complicating the issue for Turkey.

Another conflict of interest lies with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a group that aims to establish an independent state for the Kurdish ethnic minorities from several nations including Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party fights ISIL and protected members of the Yazidi religious minority threatened by ISIL. However, in aiming to establish a Kurdish state, the group is working in opposition to the Turkish government, making Turkey cautious to arm it against ISIL, Warner said.

Warm up questions
  1. Where are Turkey and Syria?
  2. What have you heard about ISIL?
Critical thinking questions
  1. How does Turkey’s geographic location make it an important player in the fight against ISIL?
  2. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is fighting ISIL, is also working for a cause that the Turkish government does not support. If you were the president of Turkey, how would you handle this?
  3. What is the responsibility of nations to intervene in international conflicts, and how should countries set priorities to decide when to get involved?
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