Foreign Policy Blogs

Whose Side is Turkey on?


In a new piece in the London Review of Books, Patrick Cockburn writes on the rise of the Islamic State — also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) — and elaborates in detail on the factors that have contributed to its military success in Syria and Iraq despite American air raids against the group since August of this year.

Cockburn, who has covered the Middle East for the last three decades first for the Financial Times and presently for the Independent, pokes holes on various aspects of the strategy adopted by the American-led coalition against the Islamic State, drawing a picture of Syria and Iraq in slow motion disintegration and suggesting that “foreign intervention will only increase the level of violence and the Sunni-Shia civil war will gather force, with no end in sight.”

Calling the anti-ISIS coalition “bizarre,” Cockburn argues that the exclusion of Iran, the Syrian army, the Syrian Kurds and Shia militias was among the weakest aspects of the strategy and that Turkish intransigence on assisting the Kurds out of fears of strengthening them and what appears to be a collaboration between Turkish intelligence services and ISIS have seriously weakened the coalition. According to Cockburn — who is also the author of The Jihadis Return: Isis and the New Sunni Uprising, a forthcoming book on the Islamic State to be released in February 2015 — ISIS has many cells in Baghdad’s Sunni neighborhoods that would rise up in “co-ordination with an attack from outside the capital” by ISIS.

You can read Cockburn’s piece in its entirety here.