World Bulletin / News Desk
In interviews conducted on the sidelines of the Al-Sharq Forum's Istanbul conference on Oct. 8 and 9, the academics said the West needed to be more cooperative with Turkey.
Dr. Omar Ashour, senior lecturer in Middle East Politics and Security Studies at the U.K.’s University of Exeter, underlined that Turkey’s support to Syrian opposition forces was crucial in the fight against ISIL.
“The level of intelligence, military, security support given to the mainly pro-revolution armed opposition from Turkey is very crucial in limiting ISIL expansion in the north of Aleppo, Raqqah and elsewhere,” he said.
Ashour said without Turkish actions, ISIL would have expanded significantly in the north of Syria.
Salman Sayyid, professor of Social Theory and Decolonial Thought at the U.K.’s University of Leeds, said the Turkish army could quickly overcome ISIL in Syria.
“Any competent army -- and the Turkish military is competent -- could actually deal with ISIL very quickly, relatively quickly,” he said.
Turkey launched a military operation in Syria on Aug. 24, to bolster its border security and to support the opposition forces in eliminating the ISIL threat.
As of Oct. 12, nearly 1,100 square kilometers (386 square miles) of northern Syria had been cleared of ISIL.
However, the academics in Istanbul warned that military interventions alone would not be enough to demolish ISIL totally in Syria.
“The existence of ISIL is really a function of state collapse. People have glamorized them, exaggerated this trend. […] ISIL has grown when states have collapsed,” Sayyid said.
Ashour said a credible governing alternative to ISIL should be created in Syria to replace the terror group once it is expelled.
“Otherwise, you will have a country where actually people will say ‘ISIL was okay’,” he added.
Ashour also stressed that Turkey is helping in this dimension by providing assistance in building governance structures in liberated areas.
Ankara has said after Aleppo’s Jarabulus city was cleared of ISIL, a 40-bed hospital was built and water and electricity provided to the city by Turkey.
Sayyid said all actors in Syria had different interests in the region and, as a result of this the situation complicated the search for peace.
“We’re missing that we don’t have any consensus in the region among actors of goodwill, of what the future shall be,” he said, and stated actors needed to have an overall charter for what peace would look like.
He also claimed the U.S.’ expectations of Turkey were basically about American interests which could diverge from Ankara's.
Meanwhile, Ashour claimed the U.S. mainly expected Turkey to go along with its plans in Syria.
“[The U.S.] is mainly empowering anyone who fights ISIL, including the YPG and PKK offshoot, while forgetting about [the] authoritarian regime in Syria, forgetting about the root causes of the crisis,” he said.
The academics also criticized the security policies of the U.S. on Syria. “The U.S. is not facing a terrorist campaign [which is] blowing up, killing both Turkish security officials and civilians, committed by the PKK,” Ashour said.
He added Turkey was also affected by the repressive regime of Bashar al-Assad, the accompanying humanitarian crisis, security issues plus the nearly three million refugees who are under Ankara’s protection.
“And [the U.S.] has no interest in helping in this dimension. It focuses mainly ISIL,” he added.
Ashour also stated that Turkey offered a safe zone in Syria but Western governments did not respond at the right time.