Turkey: Lone star in Syria
As I am writing this piece, the number of refugees from Syria to Turkey has long since exceeded 80,000, and more are expected to come every day. Disturbances between these foreign guests, some of whom have been in refugee camps for more than a year now, and some of the local communities are frequently reported on in the media. Meanwhile, the Syrian regime, which was once a friend of Ankara, is now denouncing it as a “supporter of terrorists,” while the best friend of that bloody regime, Iran, is airing thinly veiled threats to Turkey. Moreover, the PKK, a Kurdish terrorist group, is attacking a new Turkish target almost every day, with probable support from the Iranian and Syrian intelligence services.
In short, the Turkish government is in big trouble these days with regards to Syria. The ruthless regime of Bashar al-Assad and his fellow thugs has proved more resilient than what Ankara foresaw. Therefore, the Turkish support for the Syrian opposition, including the Free Syrian Army, is proving quite costly to Turkey.
This is the reason why many Turkish foreign policy experts are highly critical of the Turkish government, especially Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, these days. They accuse him of “adventurism” and getting the country into unnecessary trouble. Some of them simply argue that Turkey should not have put its nose into “other countries’ affairs.” They even seem happy that Davutoğlu’s latest call at the United Nations Security Council for a protected buffer zone inside the Syrian-Turkish border turned out to be fruitless.
I, however, disagree with this entire tirade. In fact, I agree that Turkey is in a very difficult situation with regard to Syria now. But I also believe that Turkey has been doing the right thing, which is more important for me than gaining benefits.
Turkey has been doing the right thing, for the Syrian revolution-in-the-making is one of the key stages of the Arab Awakening, which began in Tunisia, then moved on to Egypt and later Libya. The long-time dictators of these countries fell one by one, and democratic processes began in each of them. This is the best thing that has happened to the Middle East for at least a century, and the Turkish government has taken the right side of history in it by supporting the Arab peoples, and not the Arab tyrannies.
The same pattern has been repeated in Syria. The only difference is that the Syrian regime is even more bloodthirsty than the other ones that fell, and it has more hypocritical friends (such as Iran and Russia) who want to keep it alive, with complete disregard for innocent human lives. Moreover, the West, which, at best, has been a half-hearted supporter of the Arab Awakening, has little motive to intervene in the conflict, as it did in the more manageable (and oil-rich) Libya.
This is why Turkey is now like a lone star in the “international community” in its unwavering support for the Syrian revolution. (There is of course Saudi Arabia and Qatar as well, but they operate on a different level, and with somewhat different motives.) As a Turk, I see this as a reason not to denounce my government, but rather to be proud of its role in the world.
Finally, even for those Turks who are interested only in “winning” in foreign policy – in contrast to doing the right thing – I have good news: Sooner or later, the al-Assad regime will go. Then the emerging free and democratic Syria will be a great friend of Turkey, who, despite all the pressure it gets these days, keeps on proving to be a friend of the Syrian people.