Behind Washington’s ‘Crackpot’ Deal with Turkey to Fight ISIS

by Conn Hallinan at

The recent agreement between Turkey and the United States to cooperate against the Islamic State in Syria brings to mind the sociologist C. Wright Mills’ description of those who make American foreign policy as “crackpot realists”: realists about advancing their careers, crackpots about the policies they pursue.

On paper, the plan allows the U.S. to use Turkish airbases to bomb the Islamic State in exchange for helping to set up a “safe zone” along Turkey’s border with northern Syria. According to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, that will allow “moderate forces like the Free Syrian Army” to “take control of areas freed from” the Islamic State.

There’s also a broader agreement for both sides to ramp up support for what the New York Times characterizes as “relatively moderate” Syrian insurgents, and for Turkey to target the Islamic State directly. One US official described the agreement as “a game changer.”

In reality, the plan will entangle the US more deeply in the Syrian civil war and do next to nothing for the so-called “moderate” forces Washington’s been trying and failing to prop up for years. It will also ensure Washington’s tacit support for Turkey’s government as it re-ignites its 40-year-old war with the Kurds.

A War on the Kurds

The plan will tosses the Kurds, one of Washington’s most reliable allies in the fight against the Islamic State, under a bus. “The Americans are not very clever in calculating this sort of thing,” Kamran Karadaghi, a former chief of staff to erstwhile Iraqi President and Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, told the Independent’s Patrick Cockburn. “Maybe they calculate that with Turkey on their side, they don’t need the Kurds.”

While Turkey is also bombing ISIS, the major focus of its latest attacks have been the Kurds. On July

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