Will NATO herald the end game for ISIS?

Turkey’s Mediterranean province of Antalya last week hosted NATO’s summit of foreign ministers

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Turkey’s Mediterranean province of Antalya last week hosted NATO’s summit of foreign ministers, who called for a more efficient and coordinated fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance would examine all options.

“At the same time, we’re helping to make our neighbors more resilient, because if they’re more stable, we’re more secure,” Stoltenberg said.

In his inauguration speech, Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called for a joint and determined effort against ISIS as terrorism is escalating over the border with Syria, which represents NATO’s southern border.

He also underlined the need to address the root causes of ISIS violence. “We should resist those who are trying to associate Islam with terrorism, which is not only wrong, but also undermines our efforts to delegitimize ISIS. Successful strategies require strong partners,” he added.

Turkey also announced its willingness to be a lead nation in the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force in 2021.

The force, which will be led on a rotational basis among six NATO countries, was established last year to collectively answer immediate security challenges from Russia, the Middle East and North Africa. It would be ready to deploy within 48 hours with some 5,000 troops.

Nursin Guney, professor of Middle East and security policies at Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul, told Al Arabiya News that Turkey in the last five years has become exposed to both soft and hard security threats, particularly from the Syrian civil war.

Turkish military officials announced the shooting down of a Syrian military helicopter on May 16 after it violated Turkish airspace.

Insufficient support

“What has been done until now - including NATO’s stationing of Patriot missiles in Turkey and the U.S.-led coalition’s air bombardments - has fallen short of stopping the existence and progress of ISIS,” Guney said.

The NATO summit decided to increase strategic communication and improve intelligence-sharing.

Murat Yesiltas, director of security studies at the SETA Foundation in Ankara, highlighted NATO’s “implementation of preventive and preemptive measures before a catastrophic spill-over of ISIS violence occurs.”

Nonetheless, “Turkey requires heightened levels of support from NATO, as current levels fall far short of what’s required,” he told Al Arabiya News.

The U.S. embassy in Ankara released a statement saying: "Special Presidential Envoy General John Allen, Deputy Special Presidential Envoy Ambassador Brett McGurk and Under Secretary Feridun Sinirlioglu discussed a number of ways in which the United States and Turkey can broaden and deepen our cooperation on counter-ISIL efforts, including on countering the flow of foreign fighters.”

Bezen Coskun, Middle East analyst at Turkey’s Zirve University, said Ankara’s stance at the summit highlights its attempt to reclaim its power on the international stage.

“Multilateralism has become one of the leading principles of Turkish foreign policy. Since the Cold War, Turkey has chosen to act in accordance with multilateral structures such as NATO,” Coskun told Al Arabiya News.

She said Turkey from the outset has urged the United Nations to act against ISIS and the Syrian government, and the reluctance of the U.N. Security Council to authorize intervention against the Syrian government has irritated Ankara.

“Hence, to repel the security threats that ISIS has been posing in the region, Turkey has chosen to cooperate with the United States, but preferred to institutionalize this cooperation within a multilateral structure, namely NATO,” she added.

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