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MURAT YETKİN > Ankara wants al-Assad out the sooner the better

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"When a northern European country made an announcement about its concerns regarding an increased number of refugees from Syria we had a look how many refugees they were talking about. It was around 300 and that made me really upset," a Turkish official said.

The high-ranking official, who wished to remain anonymous, then explained what made him upset. The flow of refugees from the Syrian civil war is well over 100,000 according to official figures. Some 84,000 of these refugees are being officially registered in camps along the 910 km long Turkish-Syrian border, with the number increasing every other day.

It’s not only the number of refugees Turkey is worried about. Security threats stemming from the ongoing situation are worsening. The attacks from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have escalated since the escalation of the Syrian war. Ankara sees Syrian and Iranian support behind that.

Hundreds were killed in PKK attacks and clashes between the PKK and Turkish security forces since the end of July in the Şemdinli-Hakkari region bordering both Iraq and Iran (and spreading further west and north into the country) to add up to more than 40,000 in the last three decades.

Syria’s capacity for biological and chemical weapons, plus their ballistic missiles is another worry for Turkey, a country hosting major NATO defense facilities like the İncirlik air base and the Malatya early warning radar station of the Missile Shield system.

Another problem has recently arisen. The armed Syrian opposition has serious command and control issues. Only around a quarter of an estimated 40,000 militants of the opposition groups are organized under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army, which is linked with the Syrian National Council. Both groups have their headquarters in Turkey. As the situation continues, Ankara believes there would be more and more radical Islamist groups from the Al-Qaeda to the Tahvid looking to infiltrate the Syrian opposition groups, jeopardizing the long-run security in the region.

“We are trying to explain to Americans that as the imminent fall of the Bashar al-Assad gets delayed longer, the security threats in the region will get bigger,” the Turkish official said.

Yesterday fighting between the Syrian army and the FSA militants reached the Turkish border town of Akçakale and ended with the Syrian border post there falling into the hands of the opposition while Turkish citizens watched the fighting live on their TV sets.

Ankara believes the United States will take a “more clear and bold” stance following the presidential elections on Nov. 6. “What Turkey wants is not direct military intervention” the source said. “But we want this chaos to come to an end and the sooner the better. It is not possible to have negotiations between al-Assad and the opposition after this stage, it is not practical. Shortening this process is in Turkey’s best interests and actually in the whole region’s interests. If that means helping the opposition, then yes, Turkey is in.”

September/20/2012

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Blue Dotterel

9/22/2012 11:32:24 AM

@Aryeh, no Gadhafi did not want to kill his own people. He hadn't done so for 40 years, so why start now. This is Western propaganda. The bulk of Libyan civilians were killed by the NATO backed "rebels" and NATO bombing to a number in excess of 50,000 according Human Rights Watch. NATO was guilty of targeting Libyan infrastructure in civilian areas, but, of course, will not be prosecuted. Gadhafi killed fewer Libyans in 40 years than NATO did in 4 months.

Aryeh Rapaport

9/20/2012 6:48:16 PM

Blue, how did America cause havoc in Libya - was it not Qadafi who wanted to kill his own people? If America didnt respond there would have been a massacre and everyone would blame US for enabling it. Its impossible to please everyone but im proud of US, EU, Arab states who came together to protect civilian lives!!

Red Tail

9/20/2012 6:47:04 PM

It is not easy for the US. If civilians are killed, they will get radical Muslims after them. And even if a clear cut operation can be carried out, US gets the blame for everything after the war is over (just look at Iraq, people were happy right after, but then the terror attacks started and all got anti-america). The other aspect is who should US support? It seems to be a civil war between two equally bad choises. Assad - 1) Dictator 2) A group of terrorists, radicals? None are attractive.

Aryeh Rapaport

9/20/2012 4:23:01 PM

On one hand Turkey claims it doesnt want US to intervene directly while saying conflict should end the sooner the better. Turks say every passing day- conflict increases, becomes worse -which is not in Turkeys interest. So what does Turkey propose? It seems theres no strategy against crises as it grows. More refugees enter. increased death, instability not to mention PKK activity. Death, expenses, sufferrings grow while expenses, instability, sectrianism grows. Not a fun, positive future ahead..

DORUS LIVIS

9/20/2012 1:57:32 PM

Turkey continues to play with fire while living in a paper-made house, not wise at all.. If Assad goes Syria may tear in pieces and the road for Kurdistan will be open

dogan kemal ileri

9/20/2012 1:52:41 PM

Exactly @ilker avni! Turkiye's allies are more concerned about trying to save their own economic necks from double dip recession and the price of pork bellies on the commodities market.However I do believe something is afoot after the Obama re-election.

Rimon Tree

9/20/2012 12:43:59 PM

@ Shah I am with you, that's exactly the goal! The Arab-loving very esteemed PM will soon realize that he has bet on the wrong horse, going Islamist will not help him any more! He chose the wrong "friends" and rejected the right ones!

Blue Dotterel

9/20/2012 12:12:05 PM

The problem of course is that the US wants chaos in Syria in the same way it has caused chaos in Libya. If Turkey wants the refugee problem to cease, it should cease supporting the terrorists causing the problem. Otherwise, there will continue to be chaos in Syria and soon Turkey whether Assad leaves or not.

Shah Hamdan

9/20/2012 10:07:54 AM

Days are not far when this war will cross these border gates and get into Turkey. These terrorist are not there to remove Assad. They want to establish Islamic Emirates and Ankara will be capital of it. Turkey cant remove Assad soon and easily. Syrian government and allies are preparing for a long war. They are not exhausting Syrian army with extra fights but leave the places easily but later send Militias to retake it. Turkey need to think other options may be how to live with Assad?

Red Tail

9/20/2012 6:57:08 AM

Does the government want the Christian USA to invade a Muslim country in hte Middle East? The same Middle East where Turkey is the super power? I am confused here.
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