As the United States begins its full assault against the Islamic State in Syria, backed by Arab allies, the absence of NATO ally Turkey is drawing attention and comment. Just days before the Sept. 22 beginning of U.S. airstrikes, Turkey managed to broker a deal with the Islamic State to return 49 diplomats held in Iraq for 101 days. Contrary to diplomatic and media speculation, however, Turkey is not supporting the transnational, Syria- and Iraq-based jihadist movement known as the Islamic State.
While the details of just how Ankara retrieved its diplomats are sketchy, Ankara likely negotiated their release through its contacts among the Iraqi Sunni community and its ally, Qatar. This influence, especially among Sunni locals in not just Iraq but also Syria, will be critical if Turkey is going to be able to manage the jihadist threat long after the United States declares mission accomplished and moves on.