“The only summit meeting that can succeed is the one that does not take place.” So thought the late US Senator Barry Goldwater and anybody who follows summits, particularly those that regularly take place in Brussels, would be hard put to disagree. So those mentally challenged murdering mullahs of the self-styled Islamic State (IS, ISIL, I’s really, really ill) must be rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of this week’s NATO summit in Brussels to deal with what Polish foreign minister Gregorz Schetnya describes as the escalating crisis of IS. After all, since a number of those fighting for IS come from Yorkshire, they’ll be familiar with term summit for now’t (nothing).
“It is important to coordinate all these actions against the Islamic State. It seems that the issue of war with IS has entered a new phase, I would say, because the involvement of Turkey on the scale we have seen in recent days is not symbolic,” said Schetyna at a press conference on Monday. On Tuesday, Schetyna will join other foreign ministers for a NATO summit in Brussels, a meeting convened at the request of Turkey, only the fifth time in NATO’s history that such a request has been made under article 4 of the NATO treaty, when a member considers that its “territorial integrity, political independence or security…is threatened”. Minister Schetyna described Turkey as “a pillar and foundation of NATO forces” which following military operations against IS wishes to talk about what steps to take next.
In the meaningless truisms so beloved of summiteers, Schetyna stressed that it is important for NATO to “talk in one voice, but also to adopt measures”. Turkey has been until recently a reluctant partner in the US coalition against IS, but over the past few days it has bombed IS and Kurdish positions. It is also backing plans for a buffer zone on the border with Syria, which the zone would allow Turkey to hit not just IS but also positions held by the outlawed Kurdish PKK group. Turkey says it draws no distinction between the PKK and IS, considering them both terrorist organisations. Turkey’s prime minister has said that he expects his country’s allies to show solidarity and support for its campaign.
Apparently, according to NATO’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, speaking to the BBC, “there has been no request for any substantial NATO military support,” ahead of the gathering. Which is perhaps just as well, since if there is one thing NATO seems to lack more than a backbone, it is kit. British Prime Minister David Cameron is forever talking about bombing ISIS while seeming to forget that he has so diminished the RAF that it will have the smallest number of fighters since its creation in 1918, and this in the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Battle of Britain, surely a warning of the dangers of being inadequately prepared.
Of course, the position of Turkey is complicated. Not only is it the only NATO member with a border with Syria and thus a front row seat on the IS killing grounds, but if the government in Ankara continues to see no difference between IS and the Kurdish PKK – a position repeated on Monday by Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu – then its latest move presents the rest of the coalition, in particular the United States, with a dilemma. For almost a year, Kurdish rebels (the YPG, closely allied with the PKK) have represented Washington’s best hope for confronting IS on the ground in Syria.
That my enemy’s enemy may be my friend is fine, but when my friend’s enemy is also my friend, that’s complicated. Be that as it may, until NATO starts building up military kit and demonstrates the will power to use it, IS will not take NATO seriously whatever is agreed in Brussels. IS sees NATO warships in the Mediterranean offering a service ferrying terrorists to Europe amongst the humanitarian cargo, it sees the appeasement of Islamic intolerance everywhere, it sees school girls raped by Muslim gangs in Rotherham (and elsewhere) while a police force renders itself immobile by considerations political correctness, it sees the UK pay hate preachers more on the dole that it pays soldiers to defend us, and it sees continued defence cuts with Cameron cooking to the books to meet the NATO two per cent of GDP defence spending target. IS despises us, not fears us. Who can blame it?