The Turkish-American agenda for Syria

There are three main items on the joint Turkish-US agenda for Syria: A) the train and equip program B) the establishment of a no-fly zone in northern Syria and C) the incirlik air base.
h2 Train and equip programh2 On the train and equip program, the divergence in thinking between the two nations seems to have been ironed out since the implementation of the program already started in Kiriehir on May 1. Both Turkish and US trainers will be involved in the same program. This will help consolidate mutual confidence between the two countries that the purpose of the training remains identical for both sides. This arrangement does not, of course, guarantee that the trained fighters, once they are sent to Syria, will not place their newly acquired skills and weapons at the disposal of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or various Salafi-jihadi groups. Past experience tells us that the future intention of the fighters is not easy to predict, especially in a volatile arena like the Middle East.
h2 No-fly zoneh2 Turkey continues to raise the question of the no-fly zone each time an opportunity arises. If such a zone could be established, it might solve several problems. But there are three aspects that cannot easily be disregarded: One is the question of the international legitimacy to establish it. Such legitimacy could be secured only through a UN Security Council resolution. In view of the declared position of two permanent members of the Security Council, Russia and China, it is not realistic to expect that such legitimacy could be achieved. If the establishment of a no-fly zone without international legitimacy becomes an established practice, a new Pandoraand’s box will be opened.
Second, with the exception of three pockets in the form of Kurdish cantons, ISIL controls most of the Turkish-Syrian border. Therefore, ISIL will benefit from a no-fly zone more than any other opposition force in Syria.
Third, there is the question of who will enforce the decision. Turkeyand’s name is mentioned each time this question is raised, but Turkey should not get involved in the enforcement of such a decision. It will be throwing itself into a fire, only to obtain very little in the end. If its establishment becomes a must, this task should be left to distant countries where Syrian air forces have no means of retaliation.
h2 incirlik baseh2 The incirlik air base is located in southern Turkey, near Adana, where US military aircraft are deployed as part of the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between Turkey and the US. It is the closest base to Syria and northern Iraq. At present, the US has four unarmed drones at incirlik that it wants to arm and use against ISIL targets. There is no doubt that all sorts of military operations could be carried out more efficiently from this air base to strike ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq.
The military authorities of both sides have reached an agreement, at a technical level, to deploy armed drones at incirlik, but Turkey has not yet given its political blessing. Ankaraand’s attitude is lukewarm toward combat operations against ISIL from Turkish territory. This laudable position would be more appropriate if Turkey were to adopt a similar attitude for using Turkish territory to overthrow the regime of a neighboring country.
Turkey has consistently denied that there was any link between the incirlik air base and the subject of establishing a no-fly zone. However, it does not want to be part of the anti-ISIL coalition until the US agrees to adopt an integrated strategy for Syria, including the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlandut andcavuioilu is on record as saying, and”The use of armedunarmed Predators [drones] for intelligence purposes and other activities is not new. Our cooperation on this issue will be further consolidated. But we have to know these operations will be carried out as part of a comprehensive strategy so that we can allow incirlik to be used operationally.andquot
The political landscape after the general election of June 7 should open up immense new opportunities to sit back for a while and see whether there is room for a revision in Turkeyand’s Syria policy or perhaps even in its entire Middle East policy.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman