The Syrian quagmire
The worst case scenario in Syria for Turkey was both the continuation of the Bashar al-Assad regime and Syria becoming a quagmire where ethnic and sectarian terror organizations run wild, like Afghanistan. Well, this has happened.
This quagmire is affecting Turkey, both in the form of the sensitivities of the clashing sides and also in the form of “exported” terror.
The fact that Syria has become the haven for “jihadist” terror organizations has created timidity in the West. Fearing that an Islamist regime may replace al-Assad, the West is acting passively. The U.S. had declared the usage of chemical weapons a “red line,” but it took a step backward after reconciling with Russia.
The strengthening of jihadist organizations has weakened the Free Syrian Army. Today, the hand of the al-Assad regime is stronger than it was one year ago. Six months ago, one of the experts of American Brookings Institution, Kenneth Polack, wrote: “To demand that al-Assad withdraws or to say that his days are numbered have nothing to do with the realities of Syria.”
Salafi terror organizations
The fact that the Free Syrian Army and the totalitarian al-Assad regime have reached a stalemate where nobody is winning has provided an opportunity for other powers to rise. In Northern Syria, called Rojava, the Kurdish movement led by the PYD has developed. Terror organizations such as al-Nusra and the Iraqi Damascus Islamic State (ISID) have also strengthened.
Turkey, at odds with the al-Assad regime, is being threatened by these organizations too. Terrorists who martyred two of our soldiers and one of our policemen in Ulukışla on March 20 were al-Qaeda militants. They spoke Arabic, but one of them was of Kosovan origin, while the other was of Albanian origin. “Jihadist” organizations are known to have recruited such “multinational” militants. It is obvious that Syria has become such a haven of terror.
The Turkish soil of the Süleyman Shah Tomb in Caber is also under the threat of ISID. According to the March 22 dated statement, unless the Turkish troops withdraw and the Turkish flag lowered, they will destroy the tomb.
It is apparent that Turkey has to be extremely determined against these Salafi terror groups. If Salafi terror groups target the Süleyman Shah Tomb, it should not only be our 30 troops that intervene but it should also be the Turkish Air Forces that strike effectively.
The al-Assad regime is continuing its threats to Turkey. It was the al-Assad regime that downed our plane on June 22, 2012, violating international rules. It is certain that the terror attack of May 11, 2013 in Reyhanlı, in which two trucks exploded killing 52 people and injuring 146, was carried by El Muhaberat. The judicial process is continuing. It is clear that Turkey needs deterrence against the acts of both the Baath regime’s El Muhaberat and Salafi terrorist groups.
It was right for our F-16 to shoot down one of the two planes that openly violated the rules of engagement by crossing our borders. This has nothing to do with warmongering. The incident was sparked by the Syrian plane that knowingly violated the engagement rules.
Together with the West
While Turkey needs to be deterrent as far as security is concerned, it is also clear that it needs to review its policy on the diplomatic front. The government should refrain from campaign rhetoric on thee complex issues of the Middle East, where even superpowers act with caution.
Turkey should consult with NATO and the European Union on Syria and the Middle East in general and act in harmony with them.