September 26th, 2014
07:45 PM ET

Zakaria: Turkey key to anti-ISIS strategy

CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the vote in the British parliament, by 524 votes to 43, to authorize airstrikes in Iraq against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

I think many people might have actually thought Britain was already on board for airstrikes in Iraq. We're not talking about Syria. We're talking about Iraq. The significance of this?

It’s very significant, particularly the size of the vote. Britain has been with the United States in almost every military struggle it's had really for decades and decades. But militarily, it's not as significant as you might think.

The crucial issue is the fight between the Syrian Kurds and ISIS that is now taking place very close to the Turkish border. The crucial question becomes, will Turkey get involved? Because if Turkey gets involved, you have a very large country with a very serious army with lots of ground troops that could take on the battle with ISIS.

So far, they’ve been unwilling to do it, for two reasons. One, they're very close to the border, and they worry about ISIS retaliating. But most importantly, there were 49 Turkish hostages that ISIS had. They have been released, and Prime Minister Erdogan said at a meeting that I was at last week that there was no political deal made with ISIS.


It was basically a swap. It was a prisoner swap. So the Turks didn’t promise ISIS that they would not attack them. If Turkey gets more involved, that will be much more significant than Britain. I'm sorry to say that, but it's the new world we live in. Turkey is the power on the ground. It has tens of thousands of incredibly well-trained troops.

Would Turkish soldiers go over that border into Syria, into Iraq and fight ISIS?

Here's what I'm thinking. If you end up coordinating with Turkey, you begin with airpower, which would be American, but also Turkish. The Turks have a very good air force. And then you have hot pursuit, which the Turkish army could do. They wouldn't stay in Syrian territory, but they'd go in and then withdraw.

It could be far more effective than anything we've talked about yet. Because until now, our big hole has been the lack of competent ground forces. The Iraqis aren’t that good. The Peshmerga, the Kurdish forces, are good but small. This is a serious army from a serious NATO country.

Do you think that will happen?

I think there's a chance. Erdogan hinted in this meeting that Turkey was going to change its strategy now that it had its hostages back.

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Topics: ISIS • Turkey • United Kingdom

soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Ferhat Balkan

    As a Turk. I'd like to share my perspective on the situation:

    Ultimately, I believe Turkey should not get involved in this... Bombing campaign that will likely end in failure. Here's why:

    1) Turkey already has nearly 1,000,000 refugees from the Syria/Iraq conflict inside it's borders to worry about. This takes a huge economic toll already. Engaging in a war campaign will only serve to make things worse as further spillover will likely take place.
    2) ISIS hasn't threatened Turkey or it doesn't pose an immediate threat. At least, I haven't seen any reports of it. In fact, they recently released the 49 hostages they were holding.
    3) The PKK. Having fought PKK terrorists for almost 30 years and lost some 40,000 lives, Turkey will not want them to consolidate their power in the region. The PKK is a greater threat to Turkey than ISIS.
    4) If Turkey gets involved, she'll be dragged into a troops on the ground situation (due to having the 2nd largest army in NATO). This will likely involve more casualties for Turkey.

    Given all this... I hope Turkey will not get involved in this conflict. However, I'm pessimistic about it. I think Turkey will be dragged into the war one way or another.

    September 26, 2014 at 9:12 pm |
    • George patton

      I agree, Ferhat. Turkey needs to stay out of this.

      September 26, 2014 at 11:11 pm |
    • qwen

      With the fighting now on Turkey's border, I don't think Turkey will have much of a choice.

      September 27, 2014 at 1:03 pm |
    • Gerald O'Hare

      Turkey can move into the border areas of Syria and solve two problems. They will allow the Kurds to make their country in Syria and end the Kurdish vs Turk fighting forever. Also this could project Turkey onto the world stage. It has a very good economy and it is one of the most powerful militaries in NATO. Turkey is the only regional power that can control the Lavant.

      September 28, 2014 at 2:53 am |
      • Gerald O'Hare

        I never posted the above. As the true Gerald O'Hare here, I say that the Turks need to give the Kurds the independence they deserve. The Kurds were in Anatolia long before the Turks came. Does anyone here understand the history of Asia Minor. I guess not.

        September 28, 2014 at 10:37 am |
    • fikofiko

      fully agreed

      September 29, 2014 at 5:49 am |
    • j. von hettlingen

      Ferhat Balkan, ISIS is not a threat to Turkey. Not yet, because ISIS is focusing on state-building. But we let its ideology thrive, it will one day be more dangerous to the region. The IS sits on cash and oil revenues. It appeals to young Islamists from across the globe. ISIS has no place in our civilised world.

      October 1, 2014 at 9:33 am |
      • Ferhat Balkan

        True j. von hettlingen, but I believe we're dealing with the ISIS problem in the wrong way. Can you show me one time in history when bombing an ideology actually worked? It's like mowing the lawn.. You cut the grass, but it only grows right back up (in most cases it grows back with a vengeance). So the million $$$ question is.. What do we do? I believe the answer is with intelligence gathering. It is time for the CIA to step up and stop hiding under their desks and start to do real work. Sure, infiltration is risky, but that is what we pay them to do. Unfortunately, over the years, the CIA has grown complacent and incompetent. Our politicians are also corrupt and in most cases bigoted. Instead of spying on the enemy, we're spying on each other (The US spying on Germany, Germany spying on Turkey etc). How did we allow for ISIS to grow and fester in the first place? These are the type of questions we should be asking. We must also find a way to deal with ISIS without going to full out war that ends up a failure and results in the deaths of thousands of innocents.

        October 1, 2014 at 7:18 pm |
  2. George patton

    The Turks sorely need to grant the Kurds the independence they deserve. This way, they may even be able to get these people on board, too!

    September 26, 2014 at 11:09 pm |
    • Media Propaganda

      Democrats and Republicans are promoting the same ISIS Hype across MSNBC, CNN, and FOX!

      We need an alternative to Fear, War, and Surveillance in 2016.

      Ignore the Democrats, Republicans, and the Mainstream Media.

      September 28, 2014 at 1:40 pm |
  3. Buck Ofama

    If Obama wants Turkey to jump into this war, it will, it will. Make no mistake about it! The ISIS must be beaten, it simply must and that's all there is to it!

    September 26, 2014 at 11:31 pm |
  4. George patton

    I think that so long as we can have turkey sandwiches after Thanksgiving, all will be well. BTW, Thanksgiving is only about 63 days away.
    Gobble! Gobble!

    September 26, 2014 at 11:43 pm |
  5. Joseph McCarthy

    I always get the leg. Along with cranberry, noodles, and gravy, it is soooooo good.

    September 26, 2014 at 11:44 pm |
  6. rupert

    Come on guys. Stop fooling around.I agree with Ferhat. I mean no need for Turkey to become another target.

    September 26, 2014 at 11:48 pm |
  7. stuart

    @rupert and ferhat.. I think that line will be drawn sooner or later. Part of being a great country is taking a stand against these barbarians. That's what separates the dogs from the puppies.

    September 26, 2014 at 11:52 pm |
    • Buck Ofama

      This I agree with, stuart. Every country needs to stand with the U.S. And support it's hidden agenda in the Middle East!!!!

      September 27, 2014 at 12:18 am |
  8. Jeremiah

    Meanwhile gang r@pes continue unabated in India.

    September 27, 2014 at 3:45 am |
    • Bobby K

      I heard that dousing young brides with kerosene oil and burning them alive is a cultural phenom in India. Is that true?

      September 27, 2014 at 3:48 am |
  9. Joseph McCarthy

    @Bobby K. No. Those are isolated cases like in New York or LA you nitwit.

    September 27, 2014 at 5:42 am |
  10. Plebiscite in Indian Held Kashmir

    Hey Joe if you got married will ya OR when you got married did ya spray kerosene on your bride in Calcutta and light her up in like July 4 for meagre dowry? Meagre dowry means your bride just brings massla dhaba only.

    September 27, 2014 at 8:19 am |
    • Gus

      That's what we call McCarthyism in American. No pun intended.

      September 27, 2014 at 8:33 am |
  11. chri§§y

    Thank you @ Joseph, you took the words right out of my mough.

    September 27, 2014 at 8:57 am |
    • Gerald O'Hare

      Correction, chrissy. That's mouth, not mough.

      September 28, 2014 at 10:39 am |
  12. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    I absolutely agree that Turkey need not extend itself further.
    Turkey has paid its dues, because in 1964 they gave us the film, TOPKAPI.

    September 27, 2014 at 10:18 am |
  13. chri§§y

    Wow lol i meant "mouth" earlier. My apologies.

    September 27, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
  14. Plebiscite in Indian Occupied Kashmir

    Hey Bobby, when are hindus holding plebiscite in Jammu Kashmir?

    September 27, 2014 at 3:48 pm |
  15. Eric

    I think the Turkish government knows that if ISIS isn't eliminated, they will eventually set their sights on Turkey. It is the next logical progression in their effort to create a caliphate. Turkey can play an important role in this battle. Every nation should be on board to fight this global threat, including Russia and China who are also dealing with Muslim radicals. Turkey should also understand that the US and coalition states will be there for Turkey should they need help if/when IS sets Turkey in its crosshairs.

    September 27, 2014 at 4:34 pm |
    • blame

      Where were those countries when Turkiye was exposed and still is to PKK terror? Now all of a sudden, the Turks are confronted with the idea to fight on the same battle fronts with the extreme Kurds.

      September 29, 2014 at 5:52 am |
  16. Brent

    ISIS has opened up an office in India. They must see a demand for their services. Not that they like curry massla.

    September 27, 2014 at 4:57 pm |
  17. DREvans

    Why are we so willing to be naive about the ambitions of nations and movements, Turkey is the perfect storm waiting to happen. They are the last historic Islamic Caliphate power historically speaking. In addition they are ruled by a Muslim Brotherhood government that wouldn't have the slightest restraint from crushing all internal opposition to complete power domination. Next to consider is that they have a strong and growing economy with a full defense industry and western technology and cash. The Turks are a former empire of mass power and are missing their glory, dreaming of reclaimed destiny. But our liberal minded geniuses in the western press see none of this. They forget it was the Ottoman slaughter of the Armenians and Assyrian Christians, where a 2.4 million person genocide in the period of WWI took place and was Hitlers template for the holocaust of his rule. Islam and fascism have cross pollinated each other in Europe in recent history. The potential rise of massed Sunni power bases will give rise to a reemerging need for a Super Russia again. History repeats itself folks.

    September 27, 2014 at 6:20 pm |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      @ DREvans:
      if you continue to allow your frontal lobes to function that freely while you are awake, you may have some bad dreams when you go to sleep.
      Peace is the key to everything these days. Be cool. Just relax and think of Peace. Islam is a religion of Peace, man.

      September 27, 2014 at 9:15 pm |
  18. Josh Levent

    Turkey is placed in the most strategical location in the Middle East. Best way Turkey can defeat ISIS with minor casualties is by Air Force. I would not support troops, it would do more harm then good and by the hatred from the West on Islamic countries like Turkey, airstrikes could fall on Turkish infantry by British air force and be excused as an "accident" and so I would not favor a ground operation. Turkey according to is the 8th most powerful nation. In a situation like this, NATO benefits from Turkey but as Ferhat states, it is better not to interfere. Turkey shall remain protecting it's borders and leave the rest of NATO to do it's operations, however if Turkey is pressured to cooperate, as I stated, an Air Force operation is the better route to take.

    September 27, 2014 at 10:05 pm |
  19. Mike

    Alebadi prime minister of Iraq told in an interview with New york Times:
    John Kerry promised me that there would not be any threat for Alassad (and his supporters like Shia terrorist groups of Hezbollah) while attacking ISIS in the Syria!!?

    September 27, 2014 at 10:33 pm |
  20. Media Propaganda

    Democrats and Republicans are promoting the same ISIS Hype across MSNBC, CNN, and FOX!

    We need an alternative to Fear, War, and Surveillance in 2016.

    Ignore the Democrats, Republicans, and the Mainstream Media.

    September 28, 2014 at 1:41 pm |
  21. chri§§y

    Ty grammer cop. Last time i corrected my spelling i got ridiculed for doing so. And YOU were probably posting under that name also huh.

    September 28, 2014 at 2:48 pm |
  22. chri§§y

    And FYI i DID correct that error myself yesterday @ 3:46 jerk.

    September 28, 2014 at 2:53 pm |
  23. Leftcoastrocky

    Erdogan's cronies were making money selling black market ISIS oil. That is why Erdogan has been hesitant to commit Turkey to military action against ISIS. But now that the U.S. has been bombing ISIS refineries, Erdogan will likely commit.

    September 28, 2014 at 8:53 pm |
  24. Lol

    The silly Truth ! Turkey are happy that Isis kills Kurds – Turkey are happy over the cheap oil coming from Syria but not for the people – Turkey in line with sunni islam and muslim brotherhood – Where Turkeys unaccounted billions coming from !?
    perhaps from the Arabs to keep out of the conflict and shut up! Turkey is only Nato Alley on paper and should be out and never part of the EU – Turkey is on its way from a shaky Democracy to a Islam Dictatorship!

    September 29, 2014 at 8:14 am |
    • Ferhat Balkan

      Just about everything you said is simply in your hateful imagination.
      "Turkey are happy that Isis kills Kurds" – No, Turkey is helping Kurdish refugees (hundreds of thousands of them) from Syria and Iraq. A country that help the innocent is not "happy" about them being killed.
      "Turkey in line with sunni islam and muslim brotherhood" – Turkey's current ruling party the AKP is Islamist, but no mistake, Turkey is still a democracy and a secular country.
      "Where Turkeys unaccounted billions coming from !?" – Are you an accountant working at Turkey's finance ministry? Turkey is a G8 member that has a GDP of 820billion (USD) (2013). Why would Turkey risk illegal business practices when it makes enough to rival the top 8 leaders of the world?
      "Turkey is on its way from a shaky Democracy to a Islam Dictatorship!" – By now, it's obvious you're prejudiced and an Islamophobe.

      September 29, 2014 at 10:11 pm |
  25. Jim

    USA, allies, and the coalition forces should STOP Turkey as soon as possible if they want to stop ISIS. ISIS gets everything through Turkey; new recruits, medical and ammunition support, oil black market. etc. Do not full American people by exaggerating a bunch of blood thirsty terrorists named ISIS. It is not ISIS alone. It is the NATO member Turkey. STOP Turkey as soon as possible.

    September 30, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
    • Ferhat Balkan

      Really??? Turkey's border with Syria is 500 miles long. NO country on Earth could control it fully even if they wanted to. Has the most powerful nation the US controlled the Mexico border? With the wall, the national guard and border agents, the Mexicans are still coming across. Just this year there was an influx of thousands of children across the border. What we need to stop is ignorant people who believe 500 miles of open land can be easily controlled. Let me ask you this genius... Since nearly half of all ISIS fighters are foreign fighters from other countries, why can't they control these radicals from leaving?

      September 30, 2014 at 1:25 pm |
  26. Mike

    The main reason of all those issues in the MEis dictator Al Assad president!? of Syria that made a civil war and big mess around!
    The long term solution is kick him out of power.

    October 4, 2014 at 10:45 am |
  27. Eddie Fonseca

    Turkey being a fairly progressive country which supports all religions from Muslim and Christian faith's, and the famous young Turkish pop singer called Tarkan which has a song called Kiss Kiss, which talks about his love for all women in Turkey and beyond their borders as well. ISIS which is seen as a threat for both peaceful Muslims and other faith's because their ideology is sick and twisted, it want's to set the basic human rights for young men and women in the Middle East back twenty years ago which should not be tolerated in our global society in this day of age. Turkey has been the key to solve the ISIS crises which has bee spiraling out of control for a long time, we as Americans and the rest of the world should have put a stop to ISIS group over five years ago by educating, Turkey on how to combat terrorists in their on country. Turkey should really limit the amount of funding going to the ISIS groups, and have outlawed any terrorists groups for a long time also they should track foreigners passports which fight for ISIS group in their region and also in other middle east countries as well.. Terrorism and ISIS is nothing new to Americans it's as second hand as the attacks on New York on September 11, how we decided to curb terrorism is not just an American problem it's a global priority which needs the cooperation of our allies and America to stand united and say in one voice, we as Americans and Turkey will not let ISIS or any terrorism group harm our freedom and everyone deserves to live the American Freedom Dream of living a life free from religious and personal harassment for years to come.

    October 17, 2014 at 12:16 am |
  28. clifton moriarty

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    November 6, 2020 at 1:25 am |
  29. clifton moriarty

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    November 6, 2020 at 1:26 am |

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