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Turkey has ‘other priorities’ than battling ISIS

US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper does not expect Turkey to become “more engaged” in the anti-Islamic State coalition; are al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, or Assad and Hezbollah, a greater threat to Israel?; Israeli prime minister expects to “cash in” on Iran nuclear deal on March 17; Al-Monitor launches a series focused on women in the Middle East.

Clapper and Brennan listen to opening remarks at House Intelligence Committee in Washington

Source: Al-Monitor –
Asked during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 27 if he was optimistic that Turkey would become “more engaged” in the fight against the Islamic State (IS), US Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper replied, “No, I’m not. I think Turkey has other priorities and other interests.”

Clapper’s candor, which is reminiscent of Vice President Joe Biden’s “slip” on Oct. 3 that “our biggest problem is our allies” in dealing with foreign fighters in Syria, put the spokespeople at the departments of Defense and State on defense. Asked about Clapper’s remarks, they responded with the usual bromides about Turkey as a “NATO ally” and an “important partner” in the Middle East.

The latest evidence of differing US and Turkish priorities is Turkey’s agreement on Feb. 19 to “train and equip” vetted Syrian rebel forces. The agreement took months to negotiate in part because of Turkey’s insistence that the rebels should be trained to fight the Syrian government, in addition to IS.

And Turkey believes it got what it wanted in the deal last week. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Feb. 23 that he expects that these rebel groups will also fight the Syrian government.

The Pentagon, however, had a different take. In response to a question about the US obligation to opposition forces if they took on the Syrian government, spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said on Feb. 27 that “the goal for this program is to get them [Syrian opposition forces] to do those two things: to defend their communities, protect their own neighbors, and then go on the offense against [IS]. The Syria component of this campaign is an anti-[IS] component. That’s the focus, not about the [Bashar al-]Assad regime. [N]othing has changed about … the policy that there’s not going to be a US military solution to Assad.”

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