Ankara – While all options are said to be still on the table, Barack Obama is clearly backing away from any deeper involvement in Syria now that it is clear that nothing but direct intervention is going to bring down the government in Damascus. In the past few months alone the armed groups have lost thousands of men. Although the conflict will grind on for some time yet, the Syrian military is steadily closing down the insurgency.
The sponsors of this adventure are in complete disarray. Like the Syrian National Council before it, the Syrian National Coalition has imploded. Muadh al Khatib is now a voice from the margins. Ghassan Hittu is the only person in the world who is the prime minister of a committee. These people are a completely lost cause.
In the real world and not the world of delusions there is horror at the video showing a ‘rebel’ commander cutting the heart out of the body of a dead soldier and biting into it. Perhaps it was the lungs or the liver. The media seems to be uncertain but somehow getting the organ right seems to be important. Far from denying this gory act, its perpetrator owned up to it before boasting of how he had sawed the bodies of captured shabiha into pieces.
Cannibalism appears to be a first but otherwise there is not much that the psychopaths inside the armed groups have not done in Syria. Or are people who can do such things not to be called psychopaths? They are the best people, after all, to fight such a vicious conflict. The self-styled Free Syrian Army says it will hunt down the man who cut out the soldier’s heart. Good. It can also hunt down the throat-cutters and the ‘rebels’ who have cut people’s heads off. It can hunt down the men who killed public servants before flinging their bodies from the top of the post office building in Al Bab. It can hunt down their comrades in arms who deliberately target civilians with car bombs. It can hunt down the murderers of the imam and 50 worshipers in the Damascus mosque and it can hunt down all the rapists and kidnappers, including the Chechens who abducted the two bishops still being held in Aleppo while the Christian leaders of western governments look the other way. In its hunting for all the individuals who have tainted its glorious reputation, the FSA won’t have to look far because many come from its own ranks. There is no shortage of evidence. The media is awash with gory mobile phone and video footage of the handiwork of these men because they take pride in their bravery and want the world to see. These are the people Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been arming and funding to take over Syria.
This is the reality behind the false narrative spun by the media for the past two years. It has regurgitated every lie and exaggeration of ‘activists’ and the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, according to which the Syrian ‘regime’ was about to fall any minute and every atrocity was actually the work of the Syrian military. With the exception of a few reports filed recently by Robert Fisk, virtually no one in the media mainstream has reported the fighting from the perspective of the Syrian government and army. Reporters were moved across borders by the armed groups and reported only their version of events. This is like relying on reporters embedded with the US army for an accurate account of what was happening in Iraq. And, again like Iraq, the same propaganda is being repeated about chemical weapons.
Finally, reality has had to take hold. It is not the ‘regime’ or the army which is on the point of collapse but the insurgency. Only direct armed intervention is going to save it and against the successes of the Syrian army and solid Russian support for the Syrian government this is extremely unlikely. Obama is being pushed to ‘do more’ but is showing no inclination to be sucked any deeper into this mess. The others will do nothing without the US taking the lead. Germany is against involvement and Austria has said that supplying arms to the ‘rebels’, which Britain has wanted to do, when the EU embargo ends on May 31 would be a violation of international law.
This week the spotlight has been on Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his trip to Washington to discuss Syria with Barack Obama. Turkey’s role in the unfolding of the Syrian conflict has been central. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Libya supplied the money and arms but it was Turkey whose territory was opened up to the mobilization of armed men crossing the border to bring down the ‘regime.’ Erdogan has not stepped back an inch from the position he took against Bashar al Assad more than two years ago. The only clear case of a chemical weapons attack has been the chlorine-based compound packed into a warhead and fired at a Syrian army checkpoint at Khan al Assal, killing a number of soldiers and civilians. Erdogan, however, is maintaining that it is the Syrian army that has used chemical weapons and by doing so has crossed Obama’s ‘red line. ’ Asked shortly before he left for Washington whether he would support a no-fly zone he replied: ‘Right from the beginning we would say yes.’
Last week cars packed with more than one ton of C4 and TNT were exploded in the Hatay province border town of Reyhanli. At least 51 people were killed. The destruction was massive. The municipality building and dozens of shops were obliterated. In the aftermath, cars with Syrian number plates were smashed and Syrian refugees attacked by enraged local people. As they milled around the destruction they cursed Erdogan. The atrocity followed a pattern that is familiar to Syrians: one bomb going off and then others exploding after people had gathered around the site of the first one, maximizing the death toll.
Notwithstanding the accusations of the Turkish government that this was the work of a terrorist group collaborating with the Syrian mukhabarat (intelligence), only the armed groups or one of the governments backing them would have a clear reason for setting up this outrage. The Syrian army is rolling up the insurgency, the ‘traitors’ council’ based in Doha has imploded and the Americans and Russians are sitting down to talk. The attack was very clearly designed to pull Turkey directly into the conflict across the border.
The attack on Reyhanli came a week after Israel launched a series of savage air attacks on Syria. This was not a one-off missile strike. Two attacks in three days, lasting for hours and with massive ordinance being dropped around Damascus, suggest that the aim was to provoke a Syrian response, opening the door to a general war in which Iran could be attacked. Israel claimed that the target was a shipment of missiles bound for Hizbullah but while a research station and a military food production plant were hit there was no evidence of any missiles being destroyed. The attacks appear to have been a strategic and political failure. In the aftermath Putin gave Netanyahu a dressing down and punished him either by supplying or threatening to supply Syria with advanced S300 anti-aircraft missiles. It is a measure of Israel’s arrogance that it insisted that it would launch further attacks if necessary and would destroy the Syrian government if it dared to retaliate.
Obama is now under pressure at home to ‘do more’. In Washington the same people who called for war on Iraq are now calling for widening the conflict in Syria. Senator Bob Menendez, a strong supporter of Israel, like virtually all congressmen and women, has introduced a bill calling on the administration to supply the ‘rebels’ with arms (as if it were not already doing that covertly or through support for arms being supplied by Saudi Arabia and Qatar). Former New York Times editor Bill Keller supported the war on Iraq and also wants the US to arm the ‘rebels’ and ‘defend the civilians being slaughtered in their homes’ in Syria. He is not talking about the civilians who have been slaughtered by the armed groups, of course.
The Washington Post has been forced to admit that the Syrian army is winning this conflict but is still nonplussed at the unfavorable turns of events. ‘What if the US doesn’t intervene in Syria?’ it asks, before providing the answers. Syria will fracture along sectarian lines, with Jabhat al Nusra taking over the north and ‘remnants of the regime’ taking strips of the west. Sectarian warfare will spread to Iraq – as if it has not already as a consequence of US intervention – and Lebanon. Chemical weapons would be up for grabs, ‘probably forcing further interventions by Israel in order to prevent their acquisition by Hizbullah or Al Qaida’. If the US does not intervene to prevent all of this Turkey and Saudi Arabia ‘could conclude that the United States is no longer a reliable ally.’
There are other more likely answers to ‘what will happen’. This is that the Syrian army will eventually drive the surviving ‘rebels’ out of the country and Bashar will come out of this more popular than ever because he saw off the greatest challenge to the Syrian state in its history. Elections will be held in 2014 and he will be elected president with 75 per cent of the vote. This at least is what the CIA is predicting.
Erdogan came to Washington also wanting Obama to ‘do more’, but clearly the US president does not want to do much if anything more. The Turkish media reported that Obama said Assad ‘must’ go but this was not what he said. He chose his words carefully. In his press conference with Erdogan he did not say that said Assad ‘must’ go but that he ‘needs’ to go and ‘needs’ to transfer power to a transitional body. The difference is all-important. Personally, Obama will not want to end his presidency stuck in an unwinnable and unpopular war, one, furthermore, that could quickly shift from regional to global crisis. A recent Pew poll shows that the American people have had enough of wars in the Middle East and the talks between Kerry and Lavrov indicate that this time, having allowed the Geneva agreement of July, 2012, to fall flat, the US is serious about reaching a negotiated end to this crisis even if others aren’t. If there is any danger of the US position being derailed, it will mostly likely arise within the ranks of its friends and allies.
- Jeremy Salt is an associate professor of Middle Eastern history and politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.
What will a Turkish-Israeli reconciliation mean for Syria? As Israel concedes wrongdoing on the Mavi Marmara, does this signal further alignment on Syria aims? Throw PKK head Abdullah Öcalan’s recent announcement to halt armed activities against Turkey in the mix and the ramifications for Syria are tremendous.
Last week was full of dramatic events, which will continue to impact the situation in Syria and the region. Two days following the election of Ghassan Hitto, a Kurd with a US passport, to head the “interim Syrian government,” the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan announced the cessation of armed activities against Turkey. His move is further indication of the strategic and tactical link between the events.
It seems that PKK fighters, whom Öcalan asked to leave Turkey under formal guarantees from Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will be heading to Syria to support the Kurdish militias.
Erdogan was quick to reconcile and ally himself with Öcalan to achieve more of his regional aims. These actions prompted confusion on behalf of Turkish nationalists who could not find a logical reason for the reconciliation between Erdogan and Öcalan.
Erdogan and his foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu wanted to leave behind all these complex calculations by strengthening their alliance with the US. This meant a reconciliation with Tel Aviv, according to the conditions set during US Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest visit to Ankara.
This could be the reason behind last week’s backtracking by Erdogan on his former statements on Zionism, announcing that he had not meant what he said and that he is neither against Judaism nor Zionism, but opposed to the policies of Israel concerning the rights of Palestinians.
This new position was enough for US President Barack Obama to convince Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to call Erdogan and apologize for the Israeli army’s actions against the Mavi Marmara ship in May 2010. But Netanyahu only gave verbal promises about lifting the siege on Gaza, which was the third fundamental condition set by Turkey for reconciliation with Israel.
However, these indicators are not the only reason for Israel’s apology to Turkey. Ankara does not hide its dire need for the support of the Jewish Lobby in the US, which had threatened to sabotage Erdogan’s visit to Washington at the end of this month unless he reconciles with Tel Aviv.
It is expected that the reconciliation will be reinforced with a surprise visit to Ankara by Netanyahu very soon and before Erdogan’s visit to the US.
It has now become clear that, in the next few days, the Syrian regime will be facing more political and military pressures on the Arab, regional, and international levels, as a result of the Turkish-Israeli-US alliance and its Qatari and Saudi extensions. Erdogan will attempt to include Syrian Kurds in the mix, based on his deal with Öcalan, whose terms of agreement are still unknown.
Turkish media, meanwhile, are discussing some dramatic scenarios, including an agreement between Ankara and Washington to redraw the map of the region, like the British-French 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement. This will give the Kurds a regionally independent entity through a federation of Kurdish regions in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran. It might even be under the protection of the Islamic Ottoman Erdogan, as mentioned by Öcalan in his statements commemorating Nowruz, when he spoke about the Ottoman Islamic brotherhood.
Istanbul – In what may be described as a very odd move by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish authorities, tens of thousands of Kurds in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir were allowed to participate in the funeral of three Kurdish activists – including a founding member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – who were assassinated in Paris on 9 January 2013.
To be sure, Turkish warplanes had carried out airstrikes against PKK positions and encampments in northern Iraq prior to the funeral. Perhaps this was a government message to the Turkish population that the war on Kurdish “terror” would continue, even if the government allowed the slain leaders of the Kurdish “terrorist” group to be buried in a massive funeral procession in Turkey.
Kurdish leaders in Turkey appealed to the participants in the ceremony not to raise PKK flags or portraits of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who has been imprisoned by the Turkish authorities since 1999. These directives are possibly a first for a Kurdish demonstration.
And indeed, tens of thousands gathered yesterday at a square in Diyarbakir, the largest Kurdish city in Turkey, many wearing white scarves, a symbol of peace. The mourners refrained from chanting any “radical” slogans that may have provoked Turkish nationalist factions.
In the meantime, a delegation from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) met with Öcalan to inquire about his conditions in prison. According to the Turkish media, secret talks between the government and the PKK leader continue, with a view to reach a secret deal that serves both sides’ interests. To many, this is seen as a starting point for the final settlement to the Kurdish question in Turkey.
One key demand by Öcalan is to be released under a comprehensive general amnesty issued by the government for all leaders, members, and followers of the PKK. Only then would he instruct the party’s armed fighters to cease their attacks against Turkey once and for all.
After that, political demands such as recognizing the Kurdish national identity in the constitution would be discussed between the PKK and the Turkish government.
Through its media, the Turkish government has been able to persuade a majority of the Turkish people that a political solution to the Kurdish question is both necessary and urgent, and that reaching one would serve the national interests of the state. Yet independent opinion polls show that most Turks would not readily accept Öcalan’s release or amnesty for PKK followers.
For one thing, this would mean that in the future, Öcalan could become an important figure in Kurdish, and even Turkish, political life, especially if the Turkish government were to give autonomy to the Kurds in southeast Turkey.
In this vein, press reports have often alluded to a Turkish plan for a quick resolution to the Kurdish question, which seeks to counter any undesirable scenarios in Syria, which also has a sizable Kurdish population. Particularly so when the Syria-based Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is allied with the Turkish chapter of the PKK, controls the Kurdish regions in Syria adjacent to the Kurdish regions in Turkey and northern Iraq.
This may help explain the strategic alliance between Ankara and Iraqi Kurdish leaders Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani. The alliance seeks to influence Kurdish public opinion in Syria, and to convince Syrian Kurds of the need for cooperation and rapprochement with Turkey.
Turkey has provided all kinds of support for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq as it makes profits to the tune of billions of dollars in trade and oil deals.
This has allowed Ankara to become a key player in internal Iraqi affairs, owing to its alliance with Barzani and Talabani, as well as Iraq’s Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Tariq al-Hashemi.
On a related note, it has become an open secret that Erdogan’s moves concerned with the Kurdish question have a lot to do with its most important ally: Washington DC. Next month, Erdogan will travel to the US to hold talks over future scenarios.
Meanwhile, there are reports that the situation may soon heat up in Iran’s Kurdish regions with the approach of Iran’s presidential election. This may prompt Ankara to move faster towards containing Kurdish populations in the region under an umbrella of pan-Islamic sentiment.
Just like the Turkish political and ideological model was endorsed by the Muslim Brotherhood in the countries of the Arab Spring, this Turkish umbrella may take a form that is acceptable for Arab and the Muslim nations. Most probably, it will involve a model of moderate and democratic Islam, that is to say, one that is consistent with US interests.
See also; prominent Zionist suggests rapprochement:
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that no weapons were carried by the Syrian passenger plane Turkey diverted on Wednesday over suspicions it was transporting non-civilian cargo.
Lavrov claimed the Airbus A-320 was carrying radar parts, and that transporting such items by civil aircraft does not violate international law.
“We have no secrets,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters. “There were, of course, no weapons on the plane and could not have been any. There was a cargo on the plane that a legal Russian supplier was sending in a legal way to a legal customer.”
Lavrov said the the supplier will demand the cargo be returned which is their property.
“We are awaiting an official reply why our diplomats were not allowed to meet the Russian passengers on board,” stressed the Russian FM.
The announcement came in response to a Thursday statement made by Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan alleging that the Syrian Air jet was transporting Russian-made munitions for the Syrian Defense Ministry.
“It is absolutely clear who sent the cargo and who was going to receive it. This was munitions from the Russian equivalent of our Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation being sent to the Syrian Defense Ministry,” Ergodan said.
Turkey diverted the passenger plane en route from Moscow to Damascus on Wednesday as it entered Turkish airspace, and forced it to land in Ankara and open its cargo to inspection. After around nine hours, some items from the cargo were seized and the plane was allowed to depart.
Syria labeled the incident “air piracy,” and insisted there was nothing illegal on board the plane.
Moscow criticized Turkey for endangering the lives of the flight’s 35 passengers by dispatching F-16s fighter jets to force the plane to land, and demanded to know why Russian diplomats and doctors were not allowed to meet the 17 Russian nationals on board the plane.
- Turkey Releases Syrian Plane after Detention (alethonews.wordpress.com)
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)
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warns that Ankara could strike the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) terrorists inside Syria.
“In the north, it (the Syrian government) has allotted five provinces to the Kurds, to the terrorist organization,” Erdogan told the Turkish television on Wednesday.
He also stated that the strike is “not even a matter of discussion, it is a given,” in response to a question whether Ankara would strike fleeing rebels after an attack on Turkish soil.
“That is the objective. That is what must be done.”
Erdogan made the remarks on the same day when a security meeting of senior Turkish officials, chaired by the prime minister, was held in Ankara.
“The activities of the separatist terrorist organization (PKK) in our country and in neighboring countries have been discussed,” read a statement issued after the meeting, which was held following reports that the Democratic Union of Kurdistan (PYD), the PKK’s offshoot in Syria, had taken over three villages in the north of the country.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Chief of General Staff General Necdet Ozel, Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay and several other high-ranking officials also attended the meeting on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Turkish military said on Wednesday that its forces killed at least 15 PKK members in a clash near the border with Iraq.
Also on Wednesday, a Turkish official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Ankara would close Turkey’s border crossings with Syria until further notice.
The PKK launched an armed campaign against Turkey in 1984 in a quest to gain independence for Kurds living in the southeast of the country.
Turkey may have acted too fast when it took its tough stance against Damascus, expecting a rapid fall for the regime, some observers have argued ahead of a “Friends of Syria” conference in Istanbul.
Now, a number of commentators in Turkey are suggesting it might be time to think again.
“Turkey had better revise its policy toward its southern neighbor, ahead of the second gathering of the Friends of Syria group on April 1 in Istanbul, by placing diplomatic efforts in front of all other options,” wrote Serkan Demirtas in the Hurriyet Daily News.
Those other options circulating in Ankara, as well as Western and Arab capitals, run from humanitarian corridors, to a buffer zone in Syria to accommodate refugees, or even direct assistance to rebels.
Many rebel leaders, including ex-general Riad al-Asaad, are already in Turkey.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised the stakes sharply on March 6 when he called on Damascus to allow for the “immediate” opening of humanitarian corridors.
While his words matched international calls from western powers, the demand lacked substance. It was not clear if Turkey would gear up for the task, given its 910-kilometre (560-mile) common border.
The creation of a buffer zone is another issue that Ankara has not been clear on, since it implies sending troops to secure the area. But it is still on the agenda as Turkey already houses 17,000 Syrians, and its Red Crescent organization says it is preparing for half a million.
“We are determined to consider every possible measure,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Monday, adding that the move would aim at ending the suffering of Syrians, but also at securing the border.
Critics however say the buffer zone would be an “interventionist policy” that could prove Ankara too reckless, and too adventurous.
Forming a buffer zone, Demirtas wrote, “would not only break the image Turkey has built in the region, but is also inconsistent with its general foreign policy principles, the main pillar of which is peace.”
“Without a UN resolution to back it up, a buffer zone would be a daring initiative for Ankara,” added analyst Sinan Ulgen from the Istanbul-based Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies.
As for the rebels, Ankara is silent about plans to arm or train them for counter-attacks on Syria’s security forces. The regime in Damascus has already denounced “incursions” into its territory from refugee camps in Turkey.
On Wednesday, AFP journalists witnessed smugglers carry a cargo of shotguns and buckshot into Syria, but the load contained no major weapons of war.
Erdogan embraced the Syrian political opposition after having failed to get President Bashar al-Assad to introduce reforms.
“The day will come when you will also have to go,” he told Assad in late November. But according to columnist Semih Idiz, the Syrian president has “outfoxed Ankara.”
“(Ankara’s) expectation was that the uprising in that country would not drag on for long and that Bashar al-Assad would be toppled relatively quickly — the way it happened in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya– with Turkey emerging as a key mentor for the new Syria,” he wrote.
Along with the threat of a massive influx of refugees, mostly Sunnis, Ankara has also had to contend with dissent at home over its policy on the crisis, Idiz added. Its large Alevi population, close to Syria’s dominant but minority Alawites, are “not all that pleased about Turkey’s stance on Syria.”
The Syrian regime looks to remain in place “for much longer than Ankara expected or is prepared for,” he concluded. That possibility has also prompted the main opposition Republic People’s Party (CHP) to attack Ankara’s decision to cut ties with the Damascus regime.
“For now, the Syrian regime is not ready to leave or be overthrown,” Faruk Logoglu, a CHP lawmaker, told AFP. “Ankara should have kept channels of dialogue and communication open with Damascus.”
Western and Arab countries will join Syrian opposition groups at the April 1 meeting in Istanbul.
But Turkey is not the only nation struggling with its approach to Damascus.
“Does the Western alliance have a plan for Syria? Does the Syrian opposition offer a credible image?,” asked another columnist from the Milliyet daily, Kadri Gurselhe.