Turkey and ISIS – more than meets the eye

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Turkish tanks on Kobane border
Turkish tanks on Kobane border

Despite the very controversial stance Turkey has taken in the framework of the fight against ISIS, American companies are increasing their business contacts with Turkish companies.

“The Turkish government is more concerned with its Kurdish opposition than in fighting the war against the Islamic State,” US National Intelligence Chief James Clapper said recently. “I think Turkey has other priorities and other interests,” Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

According to a report in Newsweek, when asked whether Ankara was expected to take a more active role against ISIS, the extremist group also known as ISIL, Clapper said Turkey was more concerned with its Kurdish opposition and the economy than fighting ISIS.

Turkey, an important NATO member, recently signed an agreement with the United States to train and arm “moderate” rebel forces in Syria. Nevertheless, Ankara has been facing international criticism for turning a blind eye to ISIS. Turkey had been accused of letting militants use its territory to get militants into Syria and smuggle goods and oil out.

IncirlikThis move may have come, in part, in order to counterbalance American displeasure with Ankara’s reluctance to allow US combat aircraft from using the Incirlik airbase. This forces the US to deploy bombers and other reconnaissance and intelligence missions from the Persian Gulf, thereby extending mission ranges and complicating them.

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Clapper explained that a “permissive” local climate allowed foreign ISIS recruits to get to jihads in Syria and Iraq through Turkey. Nevertheless, he did not elaborate on Turkey’s reluctance to be embroiled in the conflict.

Turkey is concerned that an independent Kurdish state, currently unfolding in what used to be northern Iraq, would attract fellow Kurds in Turkey and Syria. This would pose a threat to Turkey’s territorial integrity.

Despite the criticism in the U.S, American companies are continuing to promote their business in Turkey. Turkish defense electronics specialist Aselsan and US defense contractor Honeywell recently signed a memorandum of understanding to generate a framework for future collaboration. This, according to a statement by the Turkish company.

The statement also said that the agreement sets forth a pathway for collaboration on avionics products for both civilian and military industries. “To ensure that the cooperative work to be undertaken by the companies proceeds efficiently, the parties have agreed to establish a Steering Committee to ensure regular meetings as well as dedicated Working Groups to execute the collaborative efforts.”

Aselsan says its business focuses on in-house critical capabilities, state-of-the-art technologies and sustainable research and development. The company, listed on the Istanbul Stock Exchange, specialized in military communication systems suitable for air, navy and ground force.