An anti-war protest was held in the Turkish capital Ankara on October 9, 2012
A recent opinion poll has revealed that more than 75 percent of the Turkish people are against a war with neighboring Syria.
The opinion poll was conducted by Metropol, an agency close to the Turkish government, and surveyed 3,000 respondents.
Analysts believe that this majority is increasing further and there is a sharp mismatch between the government’s policies and the Turkish public opinion.
This comes as massive anti-war protests have taken place in many Turkish cities during the past weeks.
The row between Turkey and Syria escalated after Ankara held Damascus responsible for a mortar shell that killed five civilians in the southeastern town of Akcakale on October 3.
Ankara promptly responded with retaliatory fire that continued through the next days, and Turkish lawmakers also authorized the government to use military force against Syria when it deemed necessary.
Tensions have been running high between Syria and Turkey, with Damascus accusing Turkey along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar of backing a deadly insurgency that has claimed the lives of many Syrians, including security and army personnel.
Turkey has beefed up its military presence on its border with Syria over the past weeks, stationing tanks, anti-aircraft missiles, and additional troops in the area.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on October 9 that Turkey’s armed forces would not hesitate to strike back in response to any attack on the Turkish soil after Turkey’s parliament authorized cross-border military action against Syria “when deemed right” On October 4.
The mortar used to attack the Turkish town of Akcakale is a design specific to NATO and was given to Syrian rebels by Ankara, according to Turkey’s Yurt newspaper. The mortar killed one adult and four children from the same family on Wednesday.
An article by the paper’s Editor-in-Chief, Merdan Yanardag, states that the newspaper received information from a reliable source, which claimed that Turkey itself sent the mortars to rebels in the so-called “free army.”
“Turkey is a longtime member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and they’re going to act in conjunction with other NATO powers, so it’s unsurprising that this has happened,” editor of the Pan-African news wire, Abayomi Azikiwe, told RT.
NATO has so far shunned any military involvement in the conflict, but Azikiwe says the alliance is deeply involved in every decision that Turkey makes.
“Ankara isn’t taking any military actions or contemplating any type of military strategy without being in full cooperation with NATO forces,” he said.
Turkey retaliated at Syria for a sixth consecutive day on Monday, after a mortar from Syria landed in Turkey’s Hatay province.
And as Turkey fights to defend its border towns, the country’s president says the country’s military will take any action necessary.
“The worst-case scenarios are taking place right now in Syria … Our government is in constant consultation with the Turkish military. Whatever is needed is being done immediately as you see, and it will continue to be done,” President Abdullah Gul said in a statement on Monday.
But it’s not only leaders within Turkey that are stating their opinions on the conflict.
Earlier on Monday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned of the consequences that the conflict could bring to the region.
“The escalation of the conflict along the Syrian-Turkish border and the impact of the crisis on Lebanon are extremely dangerous,” Ban said at the opening of the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg, France.
The exchange of fire began last Wednesday, when Syrian mortar shells killed a woman and four children from the same family in Akcakale.
Many fear the situation will lead to regional conflict, with political analyst Dan Glazebrook, saying that Ankara aims to drag NATO into a war with Syria.
“On the one hand the [Turks] are trying to give cover to the rebels to continue their fight, as they know that the rebels are getting defeated on the ground so they are bombarding Syria as a way to help the rebels not lose too many of their positions,” Glazebrook told RT. “But I think also they may be hoping that they can somehow nudge, provoke NATO into taking action as well, into prompting a kind of blitzkrieg that is actually the only thing really that would enable the rebels to win now at this state.”
- usually the FSA mortars are described as russian-made and stolen from the syrian army (niqnaq.wordpress.com)
- Nato has ‘plans in place’ to back Turkey in Syrian war (morningstaronline.co.uk)
On October 4, the Turkish daily Sözcü proclaimed on its website: “We hit Syria!”
Numerous Syrian soldiers were reported dead as a result of the hit, which took place in response to a Syrian mortar strike that killed a woman and four children, all from the same family, in the Turkish border town of Akçakale. The hit stands to be repeated now that the Turkish parliament has officially authorized future military action against its southern neighbor.
To some observers, this authorization may appear redundant. It is common knowledge that Turkey is playing host to anti-Syrian regime combatants, who stage incursions from Turkish territory, and, as the British Independent noted in June of this year:
“members of the loose assortment of rebel groups that comprises the FSA [Free Syrian Army] said they had received multiple shipments of arms including Kalashnikov assault rifles, BKC machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank weaponry from Gulf countries and that Turkey was assisting in the delivery of the weapons.”
Coincidentally, the Turkish parliament was already scheduled to vote this week on an extension of authorization for cross-border military action against another neighbor: Iraq, which plays host to combatants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who stage incursions into Turkey.
Iraq’s feelings on the matter were summed up by government spokesman Ali Dabbagh, quoted by Reuters as registering Iraqi opposition to a Turkish parliamentary extension and “reject[ion of] the presence of any foreign bases or troops on Iraqi territory and the incursion of any foreign military forces into Iraqi lands on the pretext of hunting down rebels.” According to Dabbagh, such behavior constitutes a “violation of Iraqi sovereignty and security.”
In the latest installment of regional double standards, the same sovereignty-and-security lingo has been trotted out by Turkey and its allies in condemnation of the Syrian strike on Akçakale. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s fulminations over the “abominable attack” on civilians may appear less righteous when we consider recent events in Turkish military history, such as the extermination of 35 Kurdish civilians over a span of 40 minutes in December of last year. The civilians, attacked in the vicinity of the Turkish-Iraqi border, were mistaken for PKK militants.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Turkish warplanes were aided in their mistake by US Predator and Israeli Heron drones. The participation of the latter technology is an ever-ironic reminder of Turkish-Israeli military collaboration, which continued even after Erdoğan’s 2009 performance at Davos, where he announced to Israel’s president Shimon Peres: “When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill.”
Indeed, Erdoğan was correct in this assessment, as Israel had recently wrapped up its latest exhibition of killing prowess in Gaza, where 1400 persons – primarily civilians – were eliminated in 22 days. The following year, Israel reiterated its homicidal abilities by slaughtering eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American on board the Mavi Marmara, part of the flotilla endeavoring to deliver humanitarian aid to the besieged Palestinian coastal enclave.
While the Mavi Marmara incident merely provoked an expression of “regret” from the US establishment, this week’s strike on Akçakale merited “outrage”, despite having produced approximately half the number of Turkish casualties than were killed on the ship. The Agence France-Presse quoted an email from Pentagon spokesman George Little specifying that “[t]his is yet another example of the depraved behavior of the Syrian regime, and why it must go.”
This is the same George Little, of course, who appears in the Wall Street Journal article weighing in on the drone-facilitated massacre of the 35 Kurds in north Iraq – who, it must be stressed, are far from the only innocent casualties of Turkish cross-border maneuvers:
“At the Pentagon, press secretary George Little said when asked about the strike, ‘Without commenting on matters of intelligence, the United States strongly values its enduring military relationship with Turkey’.”
After so many years of “collateral damage” and other euphemisms for mass killing in Iraq and Afghanistan, the duplicity of the imperial lexicon comes as no surprise. Tragic events are catalogued according to the identity of the perpetrators and victims: when Turkey kills Kurds it’s evidence of a valuable military relationship; when Syria kills Turks it’s depraved; when Israel kills anyone it’s in self-defense.
The upshot is that there are quite a few people who “know well how to kill” and that lexical acrobatics cheapen human life. As for Erdoğan’s assailing the Syrian regime for “carrying out massacres with heavy weapons against its own people,” a miraculous purging of hypocrisy from politics would require such critiques to be applied to other situations as well – like, say, ones in which Kurds obliterated by Turkish warplanes happen to be Turkish citizens.
Belén Fernández is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, released by Verso in 2011.
- Turkish parliament authorizes cross-border military operations in Syria (alethonews.wordpress.com)