The Turkish government inflicted a stunning blow to President Barack Obama’s strategy for a broad US-led coalition for tackling and defeating the Islamic State, Thursday, Sept. 11 – just hours after the plan was unveiled in Washington. One of the 11 Sunni Muslim nations invited to Jeddah by US Secretary John Kerry Thursday to join the coalition’s establishment, Turkey announced instead that it wants no part in the US strategy for destroying IS.
In his speech Wednesday night, President Obama specifically named Turkey as one of the “friends and allies” who would contribute troops to the mission.
However, an official in Ankara, who chose to remain anonymous, stated later: “Turkey will refuse to allow a US-led coalition to attack jhadists in neighboring Iraq and Syria from its air bases, nor will it take part in combat operations against militants.” The statement continued: “Turkey will not be involved in any armed operation but will concentrate entirely on humanitarian operations.”
debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report that Turkey has knocked out one of the main props from under the Obama plan, which was its reliance on regional forces for combating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, while the United States provided air strikes and cover.
As prime minister of Turkey eleven years ago, President Tayyip Erdogan confronted former US President George W. Bush with the same letdown when, on the eve of the US 2003 invasion of Iraq, he withheld Turkish bases for the deployment of 60,000 US troops to open a northern front against Saddam Hussein.
This act provoked a long crisis in relations between Washington and Ankara.
US sources report that, straight after the Jeddah meeting, Secretary Kerry will travel to Ankara on Friday, Sept. 12, to confront Turkish leaders.
But meanwhile, Germany and Britain have said they would not take part in the US air campaign in Iraq and Syria.
debkafile reported earlier: In his speech to the American people, Wednesday, Sept. 10, President Barack Obama unveiled a four-point strategy “to roll back, degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS, at the head of “a broad coalition of friends and allies.” The US would lead off with systematic air strikes against IS targets, while local forces would perform the fighting on the ground. “No US combat troops would be involved,” he pledged.
He described the effort as a “comprehensive and sustained counter-terror mission,” to hunt terrorists down wherever they are. “We will not hesitate to take action against IS in Syria as well as Iraq,” said Obama. “There will be no safe haven for anyone threatening America.” He therefore called on Congress to approve additional resources for training and equipping Syrian opposition forces to take part in the war on IS.
Another 475 US military personnel had been assigned to Iraq, he said, but not in combat missions. They would provide training, intelligence and equipment and judge how best to support the Iraqi military. "America can make a difference,: he stressed, "but Iraqis must do the job of fighting IS themselves."
According to US sources, the Obama administration has earmarked the small sum of $25 million dollars for training the Iraqi and Kurdish armies.
In the past six weeks, the US has conducted 154 air strikes against IS – a relatively low number which debkafile’s military sources note is far below the fire power needed to “degrade” the Islamists.
Moreover, Washington has scarcely delivered on its promises for three years to arm the Syrian opposition adequately to contest Bashar Assad and his Iranian, Russian and Hizballah-backed war machine.
Now, it will take months if not years to bring the pro-Western Syrian rebel militias up to scratch for their new mission of fighting IS.
As for the broad coalition of friends and allies, US Secretary of State John Kerry stated in Baghdad Wednesday that it would consist of 40 nations. So far only 10-15 governments have signed up. At the same time, President Obama appeared to be firm and determined in his resolve the eradicate the terrorist scourge that calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, but he made no bones about a mission that would start slowly and stretch out over a long period.