The legal wrangling was partly of the UK’s own doing, and partly a product of the sheer chaos of Syria’s breakdown. The UK quietly stripped the pair of their citizenship, a move designed to prevent their return and also reduce the UK’s responsibility for them. Yet it created a legal hurdle, and it made it even more complex, UK officials said, to repatriate them to face charges.
In short, most UK officials I spoke to seemed to think the best chance of the pair facing justice would come if they stood trial in the United States. US legislation and courts have wider scope to prosecute such cases — and the pair are accused of harming US citizens.
But it is telling that despite President Trump’s now twice-repeated assurance that Turkey would take custody of all the ISIS detainees (how they are to be transferred to Turkish custody from a war zone remains unclear), the US swiftly acted to take control of this pair.
Could others follow? Perhaps less high-profile detainees could be passed to other nations to ensure they are no longer a threat? Could Iraq, which has dispensed swift and lethal sentences to many ISIS members, often in a matter of minutes, be asked to take more?
These join the other multitude of questions that the Turkish intervention into Syria has sparked. Yet their urgency and the swift action of Washington — despite its assurances that Turkey would help out — betray the scope of the chaos ahead and the collapse in Ankara and Washington’s alliance.