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Syria… Please avoid the military option

HDN | 6/9/2011 12:00:00 AM | YUSUF KANLI

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu wisely stressed that Turkey was against the 'military option' in Syria.

The number of refugees seeking shelter in Turkey from attacks by their own government’s troops has exceeded 1,000. It appears this number may increase greatly the days and weeks ahead. There is no visa regime in travel between Turkey and Syria, anyhow. While Turkey started a “determined program” of integration with Europe back in 1963, almost 50 years later Turks cannot travel to European countries without obtaining first a very difficult visa, yet Turkey has been integrating with its eastern Muslim neighborhood, waiving visa requirement in travel. Still, for the government in Ankara there has been no shift in Turkey’s orientation.

Turkey’s east, however, is boiling. A spring is blowing in the Arab streets. Governments are in futile efforts to resist change the sails of which are filled with an endorsement of the “international community” or the United States-led coalition of the willing in the United Nations, the European Union and of course the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Americans are putting Yemen in order. There the trouble makers are Islamist radicals, al-Qaeda says the U.S. and thus the Americans are intensifying their attacks on the rebel forces in a bid to keep them from consolidating power as the impoverished Gulf Arab country's government teeters.

The U.S. is using drones, fighter jets, no combat troops as any body bag sent home would further hamper the already frail ratings of Barrack Obama, in pounding and trying to stop the advance of rebels.

In Libya, Washington and its NATO allies were pulled into a mess thanks to the gigantic ambitions of the small man of the Elyse Palace, President Nikolas Sarkozy. Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül was busy with electioneering and was absent at a crucial NATO defense ministers council meeting in Brussels that ended yesterday. At the meeting the ministers agreed to extend the mandate of the Libya operation by a further three months in determination not to allow the “cruel” Moammar Gadhafi to kill his own people. But should the U.N. planes, choppers and missiles kill Libyans instead? NATO’s Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen as well as Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, the chairman of the Military Committee, were pretty sure civilian casualty claims of the Gadhafi regime were unsubstantiated and since there were no confirmed figures they believed there were no civilian casualties. Do they believe in what they are saying? Probably, but I did not.

The Libya mandate was extended by a further three months but what was the mandate indeed? Well, according to Rasmussen to enforce implementation of the Security Council resolution. How? Will it be possible to achieve a ceasefire, stop bloodshed and establish normalcy in the North African country while Gadhafi stays on? Would Gadhafi ever surrender? No. Then, is the mandate of NATO forces to kill Gadhafi? Rasmussen and Admiral Di Paola deliver a categorical “No” reply but their eyes say “Sure, if we can, we will be delighted to have killed Gadhafi…”

Why Gadhafi is the enemy? Because he has been killing his own people. Obviously there is no wall or boundary in front of human rights and liberties and irrespective where they are no government should have the right to kill its own people.

But, what about Bahrain? Was it not the Saudis who helped out the government there to force back into their houses the Bahrainis who took to the streets to express their opposition to their government? And in Yemen? Do the rebels deserve to be killed by American bombs there because they have some radical Islamism behind their action?

[HH] Confusing, is it not?

Now, we have a very serious escalation in Syria. The government claimed some 120 security personnel were murdered by a mob, which is as well described by the coalition of the willing of the Americans as “opposition group.” The opposition groups refused. The counter charge was that those security people were trying to desert the Syrian army and were killed by their comrades in arms.

Every day scores of people, civilians or security forces, are reported to have been killed. Horrific graphics are pouring out the country. Nothing of course can be kept secret in this age of Twitter and Facebook, but what appears to be genuine and perfectly correct could as well be made up. That is the complication of the electronics age.

Despite reports of increased violence and increasing number of refugees knocking the doors of Turkey and with the support of its coalition of the willing, the U.S. started campaigning for a Security Council resolution against Syria, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu wisely stressed Turkey was against the “military option.”

Let’s hope that unlike the Libya case where Turkey reluctantly had to join in the NATO operation, Ankara manages to stay out of such a mess, which could have very serious spillover effects on Turkey’s own security.

Asked by a reporter “Given the stated purpose for intervening in Libya was to prevent a humanitarian crisis, should NATO intervene in Syria as well?” Rasmussen gave a rather pragmatic and consoling answer that I have to suffice with for now, “We do not have the capacity to solve all the crises in the world.”

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