No American ally is closer to the threat of the Islamic State than Turkey, and no country could play a more important role in a coalition that President Obama is assembling to combat the extremist Sunni militants. Yet Turkey has been reluctant to enlist, in part because of the desperate conflict playing out on its border with Syria.

On Saturday, outgunned Kurdish fighters, just a few hundred yards inside Syria and clearly visible from hilltop olive groves in this frontier village, battled Islamic State militants advancing from a village less than a mile away. They fought with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns within sight of Kobani, the central town in a besieged Kurdish area of Syria that has been falling village by village to a weeklong onslaught by the Islamic State.

Turkish soldiers in armored vehicles stood by at the border fence, taking no action except to block Turkish and Syrian Kurds from crossing into Syria to defend Kobani, where Kurds fear a massacre. That has fed the fury of Kurds on both sides of the border, who accuse Turkey, with its long history of conflict with Kurdish separatists, of tacitly supporting the Islamic State against them.

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