YUSUF KANLI >Turkey and Syria are now hostile countries...

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The man in the street might conclude after hearing Tuesday’s “policy statement” of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that he had “stood up straight” without “getting stubborn,” and by avoiding issuing a direct war threat demonstrated what a great country Turkey is…

At least, it was good to see that the prime minister was not trying to please the warmongers, and was aware of the possible consequences of Turkey getting bogged down in a war of attrition with Syria, similar to the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

In his much-awaited policy statement, the prime minister did not, in fact, go any further than what had already been said by the foreign minister or the jesters of his majesty. He repeated that the Turkish reconnaissance plane was shot down by Syria in international airspace; that it was unarmed; that it was not hostile; that Syria had intentionally downed it knowing full well that it was a Turkish plane that had accidentally and briefly violated and left Syrian airspace.

There were indeed some important sentences in the prime minister’s statement. One was his remark that Turkey had changed its rules of engagement and that the Turkish military was now ordered to fire at intruders (from Syria). That’s at least how this writer interpreted Erdoğan’s statement that, “The rules of engagement of the Turkish Armed Forces have changed. All military subjects approaching from Syria will be considered as threat. Turkey is not a country whose friendship or enmity can be tested.”

Warmongers were perhaps quick to celebrate after the downing of the Turkish jet that Turkey would go to war with Syria, but Erdoğan’s statements implied that Turkey getting “actively” engaged in the Syrian civil war might not be indeed very far away. Supplying arms to the Syrian rebels, providing cash assistance, and delivering frequent rhetorical statements against the Syrian Baathist regime, are all totally different in scope and cost than Turkey getting engaged actively in that war and probably inflaming it into a regional, if not global, catastrophe.

Obviously, Turkey will now become all the more generous towards the Syrian rebels. While up until now Turkey was “officially denying” hardware assistance to the rebels, we will probably start seeing a far more free-handed Ankara. If somehow Syrian helicopters or planes violate Turkish airspace (four violations were reported only in June), they will be considered “hostile intrusions” and treated as such.

Yes, there was almost nothing new in what Erdoğan said from the recent statements of Davutoğlu. However, the prime minster made a distinct declaration: Turkey’s relations with Syria are no longer just troubled; Turkey and the Syria of Bashar al-Assad are now hostile countries.

Another important statement of the prime minister well-reflected his “democratic” mindset. He recalled criticisms in the media about his antagonistic Syria policy and lamented that some journalists were complaining that his sentences were very tough. No one, he said, should expect him adopt a language like those journalists who have betrayed their profession, sold their pens, and become sycophants.

Of course, the premier deserves an answer, but I run out of space (as well as courage)…


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