The European community and the United States, frustrated with Turkey’s seemingly uncooperative posture with regard to the West’s battle to contain, degrade, and destroy the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS), have apparently reached a boiling point on the subject. Calls for Turkey’s ouster from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a refugee crisis largely stemming from the Turkish government’s unwillingness to assist in containing the advance of the terrorist group, and the geopolitical hot-button of prospective Kurdish independence and state status continues to calcify arguments on both sides of the debate.

Turkey is an outlier among the NATO member states. While Turkey’s northern territory lies on the European continent, sharing a border with Greece and Bulgaria, the Anatolian Peninsula comprises the overwhelming majority of Turkish territorial claims. Ankara has spent most of its recent and more modern history straddling the worlds of Europe and the Middle East, striving to assume the role of regional hegemon in the Middle East while pursuing integration into the European community. In this respect, Turkey’s own geopolitical interests often run counter to one another.

While the Ankara government has pursued entry to the European Union, it has also sought to attain regional hegemonic status in the Levant and Middle East. As it has looked to balance rising competitors Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Turkish government has often played one against the other. In this respect, we find the current state of affairs in Syria: While Ankara has tacitly allied with Riyadh in the effort to weaken the regime of Bashar al-Assad, it is for the greater purpose of slowing the rise of Iran and preventing Tehran’s influence from extending semi-permanently to Lebanon. It is these alliances, entangled as they have gotten, that explain the conflict raging in Syria and Iraq. The rise of regional hegemonic competitors has caused rifts in relationships and catalyzed alliances between states where fissures had previously characterized inter-state relations.

So what of Turkey’s value to the United States, NATO, and the European community? Some observers have noted that Turkey’s inadequate response to the destabilizing nature of the ISIS threat and its foot-dragging in supporting the West’s efforts to stem the tide of instability in Syria and Iraq is a reflection of Turkey’s unwillingness to fully support Western interests. In the October 29th edition of The Washington Post, Liz Sly addresses what she calls “…durability of their 60-year alliance, to the point where some are starting to question whether the two countries still can be considered allies at all.” Sty asserts that the alliance itself is in freefall, dying a death borne of conflicting interests and a priority of threats that does not dovetail with those of the European community and the U.S.: