The dynamic in the Middle East is changing. Recent events have pushed Turkey towards a more activist position against Islamic State (ISIS) and Kurdish forces, which is shaping the response of other regional players, and leading to new alliances that will impact the future of Syria, Iraq, and the wider region.
This past week has seen a sea change in Turkey’s foreign policy, one that threatens to upend the last bastions of stability in an otherwise chaotic region.
The Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain-al-Arab, has been the site of fierce fighting between Syrian Kurds and Islamic State (ISIS) for over three weeks. Some have even come to see it as a crucible for President Obama’s military strategy, arguing that if ISIS can still make territorial gains despite US air strikes, the chances for total victory over Islamic State are pretty bleak.
While it’s expected that it will be the Kurds who separate from Iraq, the real beneficiaries from a break-up of the country would be the Shia. They’re the ones who control 80 percent of the country’s oil wealth, and they would prefer not to share it with hostile neighbors.
It took just one day for President Obama’s announcement of US air strikes in ISIS-held Iraq to translate into operational reality, and the first target chosen by US forces illustrates why this policy shift came about.