2011-11-21

Turkey calculates military role in Syria if diplomacy fails

Syrian armed opposition opens a new chapter in the eight-month uprising against the Assad regime, highlighting Turkey's pivotal role in Syria.

By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye -- 21/11/11

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The Free Syrian Army (FSA), an armed opposition group made up of defected soldiers with its central command based in southern Turkey, claimed responsibility -- then later retracted responsibility -- for an attack on the Baath Party headquarters in Damascus on Sunday (November 20th).

  • Demonstrators protest the government of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in front of the Syrian consulate in Istanbul on November 18th. [Reuters]

    Demonstrators protest the government of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in front of the Syrian consulate in Istanbul on November 18th. [Reuters]

No casualties were reported in the rocket propelled grenade attack, but it dealt a psychological blow to the heart of the regime in Damascus, a city that has remained relatively quiet during the course of the eight-month uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The attack came just hours after the Arab League, which suspended Syria's membership last week, rebuffed a request by Damascus to amend plans for a 500-strong monitoring mission to Syria.

Sunday's attack was the second major strike by the FSA after the November 16th attack on a Syrian Air Force Intelligence facility in Harasta, just outside Damascus. The FSA, which claims it has "22 "battalions" across the country, says it is protecting protestors from the brutal tactics of the regime and has increasingly engaged in hit and run attacks on Syrian security forces.

Turkey has been harbouring the head of the FSA, Colonel Riad al Asaad, in refugee camps in Hatay. He, along with other defectors, entered Turkey with refugees this summer. Both Colonel Asaad and Ankara have denied Turkey is providing armed support to the group.

Veysel Ayhan, a Syria analyst at the Ankara-based Centre for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies, says Turkey now has less concern regarding its links to the FSA.

"Turkey is not denying its support to the Syrian armed groups, as it has been clear in calling for Syria's regime to reform or die, but for now, Ankara is focusing more on achieving sanctions against Assad in the coming days," he said, adding that Turkish leaders have already come to the conclusion Assad is incapable of implementing reforms and that "his days are numbered."

Meanwhile, media reports indicate Turkey has been developing contingency plans to establish a buffer-zone or no-fly zone in northern Syria in the event of mass refugee flows, regime collapse, or harsher crackdowns by the Syrian regime.

Some in the Syrian opposition view a buffer zone as a possible bridgehead from which to launch an armed uprising against the Assad regime, similar to the one in Libya that toppled Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Last week, the outlawed Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, which has taken a key role in the opposition Syrian National Council based in Turkey, stated that the Syrian people would accept military intervention by Turkey, rather than Western countries, to protect them from Assad's security forces.

Mehmet Metiner, MP from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), says Ankara is very concerned about the risk of violence in Syria morphing into a civil war.

In the worst case scenario, he says, Turkey might join international military intervention, if sanctions and diplomacy fail.

"If Syria forces our patience, we will take any step along with our international allies," he explained, adding that Ankara would expect support from allies in the West.

"The turnaround in Turkey's policy on Syria has been quite extraordinary -- after initially attacking the West for its criticism of Assad, [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan is now attacking the West for not doing more against Assad!" says Gareth Jenkins, an Istanbul-based analyst, adding, however, he would be surprised "if Turkey takes any major steps unilaterally".

"Turkey's policy at the moment seems to be to put pressure on the international community to take the initiative in drawing up a hardline policy and then to participate in the implementation of the policy. But I don't see any desire in Turkey to go it alone," he noted.

Jenkins warns that Turkey has to be very careful. "The Syrian opposition is still very fragmented. Although I think most people now think it is only a question of when, not if, Assad eventually goes, it isn't clear who or what is likely to replace him."

According to Ayhan, the AKP government needs to consider the opposition's viewpoint before taking any major steps against Syria, as it has been criticised for not doing so.

Yusuf Ziya Irbec, MP from the far-right opposition Nationalist Action Party (MHP), told SES Türkiye their only concern at the moment is that Ankara's policy against Syria could affect ordinary civilians in both countries. "The [AKP] government should be very careful and not take steps just by itself."

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  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    Nice. I’d hate to see NATO get involved with Syria. I’d love to see Turkey prove themselves to be the true regional Muslim superpower they are.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    With Western support, I’m hoping that Turkey invades Syria quickly just as Kenya did Somalia.
    It’ll definitely bring down Assad!

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    I think Turkey should strike Syria. May God not give further patience to Turks.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    Syria must have already started using the PKK against us. If Syria turns into Libya, they can take advantage of that to penetrate into Turkey.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    Turkey-Syria and Israel-Iran will play semi-finals and the winners of these games will play against each other at the New Middle East Cup final game.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    And there is also this: One out of every 105 people in Turkey is a soldier. This ratio is 1/333 in Germany, 1/146 in Iran, 1/40 in Israel, 1/68 in Greece, 1/205 in Bulgaria and 1/66 in Syria.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    Inglorious Syria! Are we supposed to treat them with respect now? I am from Reyhanlı, Hatay in Southern Anatolia. These bastards came and settled into tents here. Our town is 1km away from the Syria-Turkey customs station in Hatay. The state is taking such good care of them that they have better food and clothes than we, Turkish citizens have.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    So what now? Is it Iran or Syria that is going to hit Turkey? There is no sufficient information.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    Turkey is serving the US’ purposes here too. It is somewhat helping the US’ Middle East project.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    The US is using Turkey as a tool. Turkey has turned its back to Syria because the West wanted so. The US and Israel are using Turkey. They are putting the country in a dangerous position. Why do they care about Syrian internal politics?

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    I think Syria would beat Turkey in a possible war, because Iran is a very powerful state. They have a lot of nuclear missiles.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    Ankara likely no longer has any doubt about ‘if’ but ‘when’; with special emphasis on “how”. Good piece guys

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    Guys, remember that Syria is a Muslim country and Iran has to stand by Syria. Otherwise the US and Israel will occupy there and then set their eyes on Turkey. There is only one country to hit: Israel. If Turkey does not take sides with Russia and Iran, it will be doomed. The state is currently making a big mistake by establishing a missile shield in Malatya for the US and Israel? And against who? Those missiles are against Muslims. Iran, Syria and Russia are right of course. Isn’t Turkey wise enough – like Russia – to stand by Iran and Syria? What a disgrace! That’s enough! The US and Israel want to drag Turkey into war. Turkey is on the wrong track. What the US and Israel want is to set Turkey, Iran and Syria against each other. Do you know what this means? It means the end of Turkey. It means Turkey, Iran and Syria ruining each other. Wake up already!

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    A Turk’s only friend is another Turk. Every Turk is born a soldier. It makes no difference whether it is a Middle East Project or a World Project. God is almighty. We are equally ready for war and peace. Let us see what you can do. We have got only one life and we are ready to sacrifice it for this country.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    I think Turkey should press the button now.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    Turkey must stand by Syrian people, but it should not let the West take advantage of this. A Turkish military intervention in Syria would not have been a problem if the missile shield had not been installed in Turkey. Because in that case, Turkey would have been acting only against Syria, not the Iran-Russia-Syria trio. However, the installation of the missile shield means an action against all three states. So the first problem to solve is this one. If an operation against Syria is on the agenda, then we should first cancel the missile shield project. Israel is a strategical enemy now, so why are we protecting them? Moreover, why is this project managed from Germany? This is a very serious security issue for us. Ebubekir Şakar

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    It seems that commencing a war is a quite difficult possibility, such war matters are not so easy work. But Esad government has been trying to balance the domestic disturbances in their country by making foreign attack, which is a typical dictator model. As a result, Esad roars this way but Turkey knows how to say Esad “Stop, stay!” quite well :)

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    If Turkey hits Syria, I will side with Syria. Nobody can interfere with Syria. Ramadan Mahmut

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    As a pacifist country, we should excuse the mistakes that children do………..

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    You Turks are bragging too much about yourself. Don’t you understand? The Ottoman Empire is over. The whole world – even Africa – knows it, but you don’t want to understand. You say “Assad bellows at his opponents! Syria resists!” Well, my dear brothers and sisters, what would you do if somebody comes to your house, criticizes you for shouting at your children and tries to lecture you on how you should actually raise them? Erdogan speaks about Plaestine, and criticizes Israel and Syria all the time. If he is so angry with Israel, then why did he put a missile shield on his ass to protect them? Turkey’s power cannot be compared to that of Syria. If Turkey wages war against Syria, all Syrians would unite against it from the very first attack on. However, if a couple of missiles hit the heart of Istanbul, your earringed young men would flee the country and there would be internal conflict. Just like Erdoğan embraces our enemies, Assad would embrace Kurds in retaliation. Therefore I recommend you to sit still. You cannot achieve anything by playing the tough guy. Even the US couldn’t handle Syria, let alone Turkey. Turkey should feed its people first. It should establish democracy on its own lands – the democracy, that we, Syrians are “unaware” of! It should stop jailing its generals and journalists. It should serve and consider its people. They are talking about a so-called Free Syrian Army. Since when Syrian soldiers became dictators while terrorists, bloody murderers and fugitives became members of Free Syrian Army? Those, who are living in those tents, are not Assad opponents, but the families of those bastards. Let me also tell you that there are no US bases or Israel consulates here. The Israel flag has never flied in our skies. This fact alone proves how honorable we are. How about you? How do you test your honor, if you have any? This comment is for Erdogan supporters, not for sensible, wise, open-minded and honorable people.

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    We have no one left around us to trust. God has bestowed many benefits and blessings upon Turkey, but we just cannot use them cleverly. Our close neighbors have oil reserves while we have every kind of commercial advantage. European countries tell us to stay away from Arabs, but they establish trade relations with them. Everywhere we look, we see the US, the UK, Italy and France. Arabs’ attitude towards Turks is not good either. In fact a Muslim’s only true friend is another Muslim. We are melting away one by one. However, we, all Muslims should unite.

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    Everyone wrote something about this. What I want to say is ruling a country is not a simple job. Each country has its games and so does Turkey. She will play its game when it’s time and show her real face. Such political games have always been and will always be. The important thing is the trust of Muslim countries with each other.

Name: Anonymous - Have your comments posted immediately!


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