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MEHMET ALİ BİRAND > Turkey did not lose face

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Yesterday, all of Turkey was all ears listening to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

One segment was disappointed, because they wanted war. They regarded Syria’s downing of a training plane as a challenge and they believed that retaliation was a must. The sentence they were frequently using was, “We have lost face.” They argued that the prime minister must have a “military reaction.”

How come Syria downed our training plane? If we don’t immediately also hit them, then nobody in the Middle East will take us seriously… There were such simplistic comments.

The prime minister, in his speech yesterday, demonstrated the reaction that suits a serious state. In other words, Turkey did not lose face.

From now own, a clash may erupt at any moment

Now it is Syria who should be thinking ahead, because, from now on life for the Bashar al-Assad administration will be more difficult. Up to now, a verbal dispute was being experienced, but this period is now over. Now, it is two enemy nations openly confronting each other.

There were a few points in the prime minister’s speech that I took very seriously:
 - Turkey, from now on, will assist the Syrian opposition more intensely. Up to now, the assistance was very carefully done and especially arms aid was rejected. From now on, Ankara has a free hand.

 - If Syrian planes or any military plane violate Turkish territorial waters, contrary to previous attitudes, there will be a response.

 - Turkey will do whatever it can until the al-Assad regime falls.

Some of us may consider these steps “empty.” They may be expecting much tougher and much more concrete measures.

Al-Assad has made Turkey, with which its relations were already tense, a full enemy now. Let’s be prepared for the period ahead. From now on, we can encounter a new incident any moment, and this time we might be dragged into a much hotter clash.

Would Iran support Syria or Turkey?
Relations with Syria may go out of control. Syria’s most important ally in the region is Iran.

What would Iran do in today’s crisis environment? Which side would it take? Will it support Turkey or Syria?

Iran’s situation is very difficult. It would not want to lose Turkey nor would it give up Syria. This country is important for Iran for its own security. Because Iran regards the United States as a threat against itself, Syria is a very precious “card” for Iran. Iran would never want the al-Assad regime to be replaced by a pro-American administration.

Also Iran can reach the Mediterranean through Syria thanks to its close ally, the al-Assad regime. It would not want to give this up easily. On the other hand, there is Turkey; the only country that has access to Europe and a country that cannot be disregarded.

Believe me, Iranian diplomacy can manage this difficult equilibrium. It would not turn its back on Ankara. It would not exclude Damascus. The authorities in Tehran are masters in these matters.

Russia benefits from the crisis
Russia, on the other hand, is Syria’s most important supporter in the international dimension. Whatever step Turkey takes, it has to take into account what Moscow would think and how it would act.

Moscow sells military equipment to Syria. It influences Middle East issues though Syria. It enjoys the military facilities on Syrian territory. These are extremely significant advantages that will never be abandoned.

The toppling of the al-Assad regime is against Moscow’s interests. That is why it is protecting Damascus and will not let go of it.

Russians, thanks to Syria, have more cards in their hands at the global negotiation table with the U.S. Also, any crisis in the region boosts oil prices and this is to Russia’s advantage. Now, oil is Russia’s only income.

Because of all these reasons Russia will not let go of Syria. However, we should also not forget that it is never known when and on whom the super powers will turn their backs.

June/27/2012

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