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NİHAT ALİ ÖZCAN

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NİHAT ALİ ÖZCAN > Syria, Turkey and military intervention

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The changing nature of the clashes indicates Syria is drifting into a civil war. Long-lasting fights mean more pain for Syrian people. However, without foreign intervention, regime change and a solution seem difficult. 

How long the fights last will depend on the Syrian military. Unless middle and low ranking officers who form the backbone of the military desert, the military can resume operations to preserve its position. The civilian bureaucracy is also an important factor in that sense. The attitude of the countries that support Bashar and his regime is also important: China, Russia and particularly Iran are extending the current Syrian regime’s life. 

The political culture and character of the regime indicate the fights will last a long time. In particular the lack of a culture of rapprochement, feelings of insecurity and memories of violence between various parties are factors that complicate finding a compromise. 

Another factor is geography, since Syria cannot allow one party to fully gain control in a short time due to its size, topography and borders. As events spread all over the country, Bashar’s army would wear out and, being upset, would become more dangerous and aggressive. Perhaps after a while it would try to defend some strategic regions while withdrawing. This would show us that the military has become homogeneous and come to a stage where the ethnic / sectarian divide has deepened and weakened it. 

The way to decrease civilian casualties and establish lasting peace is through accelerating regime change. But this does not seem possible without military support “from outside.” Even though there are some desertions from the military at the moment, instigating a disciplined and effective struggle and achieving success in a short time does not seem possible. In that case, who would provide help and how? The U.S. does not want to engage in this. The U.K. and France are not keen. The Arab League seems a little unsure and rocky. It is true that Turkey is in everybody’s mind. So here is the question: How and under what conditions could Turkey intervene in Syria?

It seems the Turkish government’s position regarding intervention in Syria “has come to a specific maturity” thanks to the hard work of the U.S., U.K. and some Arab countries. Erdoğan, Gül, Davutoğlu and Arınç keep signaling this. Thoughts like “Muslims [Sunni, of course] are being killed” or “the al-Assad regime is cooperating with the PKK” are useful arguments for preparing the Turkish public for an intervention. Despite all those efforts, the Turkish public still does not seem entirely ready for the intervention idea. 

An important question concerns the new position of the military that would be provided by the prospect of a “military intervention.” What kind of a performance the Turkish Armed Forces would give is another issue. Negative effects of the past few years’ continuing “locking the officers and generals up policy” might be seen. Finding commanders who would conduct covert operations and take responsibility in such a complicated issue might be hard, since no commander would like to shoulder responsibility nowadays. Still, if the U.S. and U.K. want to take their chances, they should lose sight of France and enable the PKK to stay silent for a longer time.

February/09/2012

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