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WASHINGTON – The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has captured a number of small towns along the Iraq-Turkey border and is threatening to take territory inside Turkey itself, which could force fellow NATO members to come to the nation’s defense.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, already has affirmed NATO’s commitment to protect Turkey.
Rasmussen has told Turkish officials that NATO “won’t hesitate to do what it takes to provide effective defense and protection of our allies, including, of course, Turkey.”
Ankara, however, hasn’t yet requested assistance under Article 5, which would require all NATO members to come to the defense of another member if attacked.
Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty states: “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”
Article 51 of the United Nations Charter reads: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defense shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.”
Neither the North Atlantic Treaty nor the U.N. Charter distinguishes between an attack by a nation state or a transnational terrorist group.
Until now, however, the U.S. has been reluctant to use its airpower on ISIS forces in Iraq. President Obama also has pledged that he won’t return combat troops to Iraq even though he ordered 300 troops and advisers to handle security at the embassy.
However, that could change if ISIS attacks Turkey and the Turkish government requests such assistance under Article 5.
Rasmussen has told Turkish officials that developments in Iraq are of great concern. He has condemned the recent ISIS targeting of the Turkish consulate in Mosul, which took hostage some 49 Turkish diplomats and staff.
In response, Turkey has declared ISIS a terrorist organization.
The problem for Turkey, however, is that it has voluntarily used its territory as a base for the Syrian opposition to launch attacks into Syria in an effort to oust the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The opposition has included Sunni Wahhabi fighters, with many remaining inside Turkey. Turkey provided Sunni jihadists, including al-Nusra and ISIS, with arms and sanctuary.
As a consequence, the jihadist fighters, including ISIS, have created cells that permit them to remain inside Turkey.
Western governments, including the U.S., have been critical of the Turkish government’s support of the fighters, claiming that the Turks have allowed al-Qaida affiliates to use the Turkey-Syria border as a transit point.
The development even has prompted some international experts to question Turkey’s NATO status.
However, such action doesn’t seem to faze the ISIS leadership as they plot to bring “Greater Syria” – an area encompassing southern Turkey and other countries, stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to Iraq – under an Islamic caliphate ruled by strict Islamic law, or Shariah.
Rasmussen strongly condemned the ISIS attack and hostage-taking.
“What [NATO] will do is provide effective defense and protection of our allies,” Rasmussen said. “We will not hesitate to take the steps necessary to defend and protect our ally Turkey.
“You saw when we deployed Patriot missiles to Turkey upon the request of Turkey in response to the deteriorating security situation in Syria,” Rasmussen said. “The deployment of Patriot missiles to Turkey is a demonstration of our strong alliance solidarity and our determination to take the steps necessary to protect our allies.”