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What does Turkey’s new military action against ISIS mean?

For the first time, Turkey is joining United States-led airstrikes in Syria, targeting Islamic State extremists. The U.S. and NATO have pressured Turkey for months to join the military coalition against ISIS, and the country's prime minister says both military operations in Syria and Iraq will continue. Reuters reporter Ayla Jean Yackley joins Hari Sreenivasan from Istanbul to discuss Turkey's new military actions.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:

    The U.S. and NATO have pressured Turkey for months to join the military coalition against ISIS. So what does Turkey's new military action mean?

    "Reuters" reporter Ayla Jean Yackley joins me from Istanbul to discuss that.

    So, what was it that pushed Turkey into this fight?

  • AYLA JEAN YACKLEY, REUTERS:

    Well, as you mentioned, earlier this week, there was a suicide bomb attack in a town called Suruc, across the border from Syria, and that sent shock waves throughout the country. That was not the first attack by Islamic State on Turkish territory, but it was by far the most significant and deadliest, and it had to be a factor in Turkey's decision to move closer in alliance with its ally, the United States.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    We talked about two set of targets here that Turkey is focusing on — ISIS and Kurdish separatists. They called them a terrorist organization. You know, one person's terrorist organization is another person's freedom fighter, right?

    So, what's happening across that front?

  • AYLA JEAN YACKLEY:

    The PPK, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, is also deemed a terrorist organization by the United States, as well as the European Union.

    But the PPK, or at least forces allied with the PKK, in northern Syria have been coordinating with the United States in its campaign against Islamic State.

    But Turkey's never changed its stance towards the PKK. It has been involved in a peace process with the PKK, in which there's been very slow-moving talks between the two sides since late 2012. However, it's still very much considers them a threat to national security.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, what happens on the ground in Turkey with this round-up of 600 different arrests? What does that do to the Kurdish population that's in there in Istanbul or other places?

  • AYLA JEAN YACKLEY:

    It very much escalates tensions and concerns. The PPK has said the strikes effectively end the peace process. So, there's a real fear that things could turn violent again.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, this is also on the heels of the U.S. kind of getting upgraded access to Turkish air basses along the border with Syria. There were drones flying out of it but now U.S. fighter jets can fly. How significant is that?

  • AYLA JEAN YACKLEY:

    As Pentagon officials have described it, it's a big deal. It effectively reduces, slashes the amount of time that these aircrafts have to travel to reach their targets in Syria and Iraq. It reduces refueling mission. It's huge.

    It's also symbolically very important, too, to have your stalwart NATO ally Turkey finally fully on board in the fight against the Islamic State, which the U.S. has been seeking to well over — at least a year now.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. Ayla Jean Yackley of "Reuters" joining us via by Skype from Istanbul — thanks so much.

  • AYLA JEAN YACKLEY:

    Thank you for having me.

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