ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The sidelines are no longer an option. Turkey cannot afford to maintain its controversial, albeit cautious approach to the Syrian war raging next door.

Sinan Ülgen
Ülgen is a senior fellow at Carnegie Europe in Brussels, where his research focuses on Turkish foreign policy, nuclear policy, cyberpolicy, and transatlantic relations.
More >

SINAN ULGEN, CARNEGIE EUROPE: There has been a reassessment in Ankara that this policy cannot continue. In order for Turkey to be able to persevere and to maintain its own regional influence, it had to be part in a much more visible concrete way in the entire ISIS coalition.

DAMON: Turkey is now bombing ISIS targets. And after lengthy negotiations with Washington, conceded on some of its positions such as, demanding strikes on the Assad regime and agreed to open Turkish bases and air space to the U.S. aircraft to create, not a no-fly zone, but a so-called ISIS-Free Zone.

ULGEN: And the weakness of this plan is essentially about who is going to be on the ground to protect us this zone free of ISIS.

DAMON: And can Turkey protect its own population against ISIS retaliation? Some people even stopped taking the Istanbul metro, after unsubstantiated reports that certain stations would be targeted.

Turkey also reopened the front with its domestic battle against the PKK, the Kurdistan workers party, which it deems a terrorist organization, a move that severely heightened tensions between the Turks and Kurds, tensions that, in the past three decades, have claimed some 40,000 lives.

Turkey needs to ensure that it has the capital to launch this multi- pronged contentious anti-terrorism campaign, calling on fellow NATO members to convene, a special meeting of the Alliance on Tuesday.

ULGEN: What Turkey wants to do with this is essentially two things. One is to communicate to its allies, the new security environment, its new threat assessment, after its decision to become a much more visible and active player in the anti-ISIS coalition. And secondly, it wants to get the political backing within NATO, for what it's called its campaign against terrorism, which on the one hand includes ISIS and, on the other hand, the PKK.

DAMON: These are all very intricate maneuvers when it comes to the regional game of chess. One that may not lead to the defeat of ISIS, but could help diminished its capabilities. These moves not necessarily a game changer, but they are changing how Turkey is playing the game.

This broadcast was originally aired on CNN.