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MURAT YETKİN > Ankara eyes US elections for Syria policy shift

MURAT YETKİN

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A Syrian dad who fled his home in Marea holds his sleeping, fever-ridden son as they wait at the border for a chance to enter one of the refugee camps in Turkey. AP photo

A Syrian dad who fled his home in Marea holds his sleeping, fever-ridden son as they wait at the border for a chance to enter one of the refugee camps in Turkey. AP photo

David Petraeus, the head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), came to Istanbul on the evening of Sept. 2, causing a wave of excitement - as if Turkey needs more - and a series of speculations. According to those speculations, Petraeus was going to meet Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in Istanbul, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara, and he had actually been invited to Turkey by the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MİT) to have consultations on a serious matter.

After making a number of phone calls, it was possible to talk to a high rank Turkish official to get some information about this visit, which was to be kept secret because of its nature: No, there was no specific invitation for this visit to be given by the Turkish government, and there have been “routine” talks on Syria between the CIA and MİT since March 2012, where Syria was top of the agenda. No, Petraeus did not meet with Erdoğan or Davutoğlu; he only met with the head of MİT Hakan Fidan and his team. No, he did not go to Ankara, and in fact he had left Istanbul by midday Sept. 3.

But yes, Syria was the top issue on the agenda of the two intelligence services. To be more specific, “transition in Syria” was the topic.

The Turkish government does not hide its disappointment at the U.N. and its NATO allies because of their falling short of its national needs regarding the Syria crisis. “Our Syria policy” one policy maker explained on the phone yesterday, “is not dictated by politics, it is dictated by geography and history. We have difficulties in explaining to our partners that sharing a border of 910 km with a country in the middle of a civil war requires international effort and solidarity.”

Turkish efforts to convince its allies are continuing, particularly with the U.S., despite the discouraging signals coming from Washington. For months, American officials have been saying that they would like to stay out of any military engagement, either in Syria or in the Iran-Israel antagonism, at least until the presidential elections in November. U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone has even openly said that no change is likely in American policy, even after the elections.

However, Turkish officials are pretty sure that the U.S. stance on Syria will change after the elections. Referring to a denial by a U.S. embassy spokesman of the “utterly fabricated” reports about a statement by U.S. Chief of Joint Staff General Martin Dempsey (who said that military - preferably NATO - coverage might be necessary for establishment of a buffer zone within Syria, but misquoted in some Turkish press as not being NATO’s business), a ranking government official said the following: “Whether Barack Obama will stay as president or Mitt Romney replaces him, we believe that U.S. policy on Syria will shift into a more active one after the election.”

Then we can ask questions about the issues Petraeus and Fidan discussed on the “transition” in Syria from the Bashar al-Assad regime to a new one, with the concrete fact of increased terrorist attacks in Turkey and the allegedly increased activities of Syrian and Iranian intelligence services in and around Turkey, among others. Perhaps we will see the outcomes and consequences of these before being able to learn the details.

September/04/2012

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Blue Dotterel

9/5/2012 10:45:27 AM

The US wants chaos in a militarily weakened Syria so that it and/or Israel can attack Iran. It does not matter which party is in the White House, US foreign policy is controlled by ıts Wall Street backed deep state. To paraphrase Patton: We should not have Americans dying for their country, but Turks (substitute any "ally" or "enemy" you like) dying for our interests, instead. This makes it easier for US politicians to keep the US people on board for war, or at least complacent about war.

Turk Uzan

9/4/2012 11:43:36 PM

We have a big job at hand .. the AKP nows that after all this, they can never let Assad stay in power or trust Iran .. better yet, they have to keep a close eye on Iran, it's support of PKK terror, it's spies both in and outside Turkey ... Iran needs to go ... but first let's worry about Assad

Faruk Timuroglu

9/4/2012 11:08:40 PM

BLUE BEYOND 1) Netanyahu and Ehud Barak were talking – explaining – unilateral Israeli strike on Iran’s power plants and other sites. 2) Not Obama’s but America’s love affair with Islamists, such as once bin Laden was a good friend of America and even Israel. 3) Who is going to force Obama? Wouldn’t Israeli Unilateral strike do exactly that?

Rimon Tree

9/4/2012 11:06:46 PM

@ Mara At the latest when Iran willbe capable to spick her suicide bombs with nuclear material and will use it in the West and mainly in US, you will realize that the war against a country whose "leaders" are messianic religious nuts wanting to bring Shia salvation to the whole world is more than "other peoples battles"!

Aslam Benli

9/4/2012 9:36:32 PM

Do not count on it. The American people are tired of the Iraq and Afghanistan adventures. If Obama gets reelected, he won go to war. If Mitt Romney wins, he won either. He is a guy that will say anything just to get elected, but will not stick to his promises. The AKP is going to have to come up with a different plan.

Blue Beyond

9/4/2012 8:35:46 PM

Faruk, Israel has not threatened Iran. Israel has explained to Iran the logical consequences of its intentions toward Israel. Despite Obama's love affair with Islamist states, he understands that Iran is a threat to America's interests in the region: Egypt, Saudi, Iraq, Gulf States, the new Syria and Israel. He will confront Iran either out of conviction or because he is forced to. It has nothing to do with American Jews, who hardly represent the wealthiest in America. That is ridiculous.

Faruk Timuroglu

9/4/2012 7:56:11 PM

MARA I understand your frustration, even I am familiar with it from many American friends. America did not invade Iraq to bring democracy and freedom to people as you believe. If Mr. W. Bush cared so much about democracy, he would’ve invaded for instance Saudi Arabia instead. This is just power politics, and human lives have no value in it. I believe too, Americans are fed up with wars. Thus, hawks don’t have much chance, I hope.

Safiyah Noor Page

9/4/2012 7:29:03 PM

People can't ever lose sight of the photo that accompanies this piece. That little one is what is at stake and the world that that little one, inshallah, is to grow up in can no longer be dominated by a misguided view of reality companioned by the West. No one needs the US to sort the mess that they rode herd on for the last half century. It was hopeful that CIA Director Petaeus wasn't invited to Turkey by any government official.

mara mcglothin

9/4/2012 6:49:34 PM

FARUK As an American, I do NOT believe that most of us want any kind of war period. We do NOT want to engage in any more foolhardy missions to save people who have no idea what democracy is or even want it. I say bring all our people home and let the rest of the World police themselves from now on. Mitt Romney, if elected, will never be allowed to repeat the "irari scenario" anywhere else. We are fed up with fighting other peoples' battles only to be chastised for it. Enough!

Faruk Timuroglu

9/4/2012 4:35:03 PM

Netanyahu threatened to attack Iran. More people join Netanyahu gambit: Mitt Romney, richest 1 % of 1% American capital mostly Jewish, neo-cons are waiting Mitt Romney to repeat the Iraqi scenario in Syria and Iran and then in Turkey, Hilary gimmicks Netanyahu and neo-cons. On the other side of the line Russia and China, cannot afford losing Syria, may end their superpower stature. Islamists, PKK etc are negotiating to support one or the other. Where Turkey is in this picture?
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