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Turkey hostage to crisis in Iraq

The blowback from the ISIS attack in Iraq will force even more Turks to question their country’s Syria and Iraq policies.
Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stand guard at a checkpoint in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, June 11, 2014. Since Tuesday, black clad ISIL fighters have seized Iraq's second biggest city Mosul and Tikrit, home town of former dictator Saddam Hussein, as well as other towns and cities north of Baghdad. They continued their lightning advance on Thursday, moving into towns just an hour's drive from the capital. Pictures taken June 11, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer (IRAQ - Tags: CIVIL UNR

The Turkish government faces a major dilemma in Iraq after the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) raided its Mosul consulate and took 49 of its personnel hostage, including its consul general, in addition to 31 others. The hostages are just one element of the crisis facing Turkey: The sweep by ISIS that netted it Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city with a population of 1.8 million, as well as Saddam Hussein’s birthplace, Tikrit, threaten to plunge Iraq into a civil war from which the ramifications will be felt in Turkey for years to come. Already, the Syrian civil war has led some 1 million to seek refuge in Turkey.

As it decides what to do about Iraq and its hostages, Turkey has to balance a myriad of factors. The hostage crisis has two dimensions: foreign and domestic. On the foreign side of the ledger, the Syrian and Iraqi theaters of civil conflict have now finally meshed into a single one. Turkey had been heavily engaged in the civil war that pits Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and a series of opposition groups, some moderate and others jihadist. ISIS is a hybrid organization: an offshoot of al-Qaeda, opposed to Assad and yet has chosen to attack the Syrian opposition often with dreadful consequences for anyone caught up in the fighting. But ISIS has its roots in Iraq and it chose to make its most dramatic splash in its own country.

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