Rubin: Turkey has become the Pakistan on the Mediterranean

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By Haig Hengen (@haighengen)

AAANews Blog

June 4, 2015

The House of
Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa convened
on June 3, 2015 to discuss US Policy
towards ISIS after the terror group seized the Iraqi city Ramadi and Syrian
city Palmyra
.  The
subcommittee hearing was designed to discuss US military strategy in weakening
ISIS as well as the current state of military and refugee affairs in Syria and
Iraq.

After seizing control
of Ramadi and Palmyra, ISIS has emerged as a powerful and organized terrorist
organization.  The subcommittee hearing
heard testimony from Michael Rubin, Resident
Scholar at the American Enterprise
Institute, Dr. Anthony Cordsman, Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy
at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Dr. Matthew Spence, who was formerly the US Deputy Assistant
Secretary of Defense for the Middle East to discuss the efficient measures and
strategies the U.S. must take in order to weaken or defeat ISIS.

The questions posed were insightful as
Representatives continually raised questions regarding the military strategy in
Iraq and Syria.  There was constant
debate into which strategies would be successful.  The witnesses proposed arming Iraqi soldiers
and establishing an ecosystem to recruit Syrian fighters.  Another proposed strategy was to create and strengthen
the relationship with the Kurdish forces who have established themselves as a
powerful entity with a structured organization. However, Michael Rubin shed
light on the fact that although Kurds are pro-American they did not forget the
absence of U.S. help in the Iraqi-Kurdish rebellions in 1975 and 1988, a time
period when the Kurds felt betrayed by the United States.  Also if weapons were to be given to the Kurds,
they would not be dispersed equally.  According
to Dr. Rubin the Kurds distribute weapons based on political hierarchy.

Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) raised
the issue of refugees and displaced civilians in Syria.  He discussed his readiness to establish a
safe haven in Syria that the U.S. military would control, allowing for the
safety and security of Syrian civilians. This effort, would also aim to reduce
the amount of refugees living in Jordan and Lebanon. Dr. Spence, however,
strongly disagreed adding that safe heavens are not the answer.  Dr. Spence also addressed the concern about
the long term effects of a U.S. military installation within Syrian borders if
the current Syrian regime falls and political power shifts hands.

A pivotal moment of the hearing was when
Rubin stated his displeasure with the Turkish government and their terrorist
activities.  Rubin made it clear that
there was a correlation between Turkey’s visa policy and the nationalities of
terrorists traveling to Turkey and crossing into Syria to join ISIS and other
terrorist organizations.  Rubin suggested
that Turkey adopt a stricter and reformed visa policy, which he believes will,
in the long run, reduce the number of individuals participating in terrorist
organizations. “If Turkey
wanted to stop the flow of foreign fighters into Syria, it could tweak its visa
rules for those countries that are the source to require visas for those under
the age of 40” he said.  Rubin explained
that Turkey has a stricter visa policy with Algeria then they do with Morocco.
Once analyzing which nationalities traveling to Turkey and entering Syria he concluded
that there are many more Moroccans in Syria than Algerians, who join terrorist
organizations elsewhere. In Rubin’s written statement he mentions that “Thousands
of Moroccans and Tunisians have entered Syria through Turkey, but few Algerians
have. The reason is not a lack of radicals in Algeria, but rather Turkey’s visa
regimen: Turkey does not require visas for Moroccans, Tunisians or, for that
matter, Libyans, Lebanese, and Jordanians,” he said.

Rubin stressed that “Turkey has proven itself an unreliable ally
at best,” and
has become the “Pakistan on the Mediterranean.”
He also said that the fact that “Turkey is willing to say one thing
publicly and do quite another is a serious issue.” Historically, Turkey has
been able to close their boarder to Syria, but now claims that doing so is not
possible, which is “clearly nonsense,” according to Rubin.

It is clear that ISIS is a powerful
enemy that has an established ecosystem and continual monetary growth. For any
group, membership is what keeps it thriving.
The U.S. and its allies must stop people from traveling to Syria to
participate in terrorist organizations which drastically increases membership.
This solution is possible, but only if Turkey thinks so. If you reduce and stop
participation the terrorist groups will not grow.  If the terrorist groups do not grow they lose
influence and manpower which weakens the organization and leads to defeat and potential
peace in the region. The Turkish government should rethink their political
strategies and the U.S. needs to be clearer to their allies in the region.  It is counterproductive to the U.S. effort to
defeat ISIS if our allies continue to allow the free flow of terrorists across
their borders and allow them to reap financial gains through illegal oil
smuggling. A clear and distinct solution exists and it is possible. Turkey has
an opportunity to completely weaken the power of ISIS. If they choose not to,
it is up to their allies to ensure Turkey takes the necessary measures to
defeat terrorism.

Haig Hengen is a government affairs intern
at the Armenian Assembly of America.  He
is currently studying international economics with a minor in Arabic at the
Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.

About Armenian Assembly of America

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.
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