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Why is Turkey hesitant to enter the fight against ISIS?

Geoff Dyer of the Financial Times joins Hari Sreenivasan from Washington to talk about Turkey’s reluctance to fight ISIS, as the NATO partner pushes for a broader fight that includes combating Assad’s regime.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And now more of our continuing interview series, "The War on ISIS". Our focus tonight: Turkey's role.

    It's a NATO partner, but so far it's been reluctant to get involved. To help explain why, we are joined now from Washington by Geoff Dyer, a U.S. foreign policy correspondent of the Financial Times.

    So, Geoff, sometimes these pictures that come out, where you can Turkish tanks really just looking over the border where some of the fightings are happening. What's keeping Turkey on the sidelines?

  • GEOFF DYER:

    There are a number of reasons for that. One is that the Turkish government says it has very different outlook as to what their main objective should be in this campaign.

    The U.S. is focusing just on ISIS, but the Turks would like the U.S. and the coalition in general to also take the fight to the Assad regime. It doesn't want to just have a campaign that just focuses on ISIS.

    The Turks are also, to some extent, ambivalent about the political groups that have been dominant in towns like Kobani, which are Syrian Kurds who have links to a militant group, a Kurkish militant group that the Turkish government has been in war with for three decades. So that explains some of its reluctance.

    And also there is a broader sense of a slippery slope for the Turkish government. You know, if they were intervene here, do they send ground troops if they manage to push ISIS back to hold the town?

    Should they intervene in other towns if this happens? If ISIS go away but come back in a few week's time, what does that mean for the Turks, are they involved again?

    So all those slippery slope arguments that President Obama have been grappling with over the last couple of years, the Turks are also very much grappling with them as well.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Alright. What sort of a coalition will make Turkey get into this fight and put boots on the ground?

  • GEOFF DYER:

    Well the Turks have been very, very aggressive in the campaign against the Assad rhetorical at least in the campaign against the Assad regime for the last couple of years. They have placed a lot of emphasis on that.

    And that's their big strategic goal here: to try to push the U.S. into the direction of not just going against ISIS but also going against the Assad regime, putting much more resources into the opposition forces who can fight the Assad regime.

    And if that's happening, you might sort of see Turkish government become willing to use some sort of military assets, or even to intervene more directly in the conflict.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And, one of the other concerns right now has been this almost a freeway or a pipeline of supply in terms of humans coming from, say, Great Britain or the West and wanting to join forces with ISIS.

    It seems the key way station is Turkey. Is Turkey stopping that flow?

  • GEOFF DYER:

    That's a very hard question to answer. I mean, you get very conflicting reports on that front.

    Certainly over the last couple of years, that has been one of the main routes. The Turkish government says it has made the steps to clamp down on this, not just on the fighters, but also on the financing aspect of it.

    But it's a very open and porous border. There are huge of long standing smuggling routes between Turkey and Syria that have been around for centuries. It's not something that's very easy, just a clamp down on just overnight.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Alright, Geoff Dyer of the Financial Times joining us from Washington. Thanks so much

  • GEOFF DYER:

    My pleasure.

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