Intervention in Syria: What next?
Ruşen ÇakırForeign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s interview on Al Arabiya channel can be defined as a milestone in Ankara’s Syria politics. Of course, I’m referring to Davutoğlu’s open pronouncement of the possibility of Turkey’s intervention in Syria. Let’s remember the foreign minister’s words first:
“If the regime continues to kill protesters, then this goes beyond being a matter for Turkey but will become an international issue. Then, that case calls for United Nations intervention. Turkey, in the 1980s, called the United Nations to intervene to protect the Kurds from Saddam’s atrocities after the Halabja massacre. If the Arab League initiative fails and murders continue, Turkey will not hesitate to support the U.N. decision that anticipates an intervention in Syria.”
Let’s not be unfair to him. Davutoğlu is talking about an intervention in the case of a situation where several conditions must mature. In other words, the Baath regime will continue to massacre its own people and other initiatives will fail to prevent this. The U.N. will decide on a resolution and Turkey will intervene. (Indeed, here, we need to pay attention to the stress in the sentence “Turkey will not hesitate.”) When the course of events of today is reviewed, we can see that the probability of this scenario of coming true is high.
Did you say neutral?
Turkey has played a neutral role in the crisis, Davutoğlu said. “This reality does not change by providing a platform for the Syrian National Council to hold its meetings or that soldiers abandoning the Syrian army take refuge in us.” If these are done while being “neutral,” one wonders what would be done if one took sides.
Frankly, Ankara has openly taken a stance against the Bashar al-Assad regime for some time, which personally does not bother me and I think this was way over due. It was more bothersome that close relations with the al-Assad family were established, while there were also endless reciprocal visits and joint Cabinet sessions. But a significant portion of today’s Syrian opposition segments were nothing more than “Baath lovers” in line with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s approach.
It’s obvious that an international intervention, in which Turkey will participate, will create extremely dangerous results and our country will be negatively affected by those. First of all, we face the risk of a sectarian conflict. As Davutoğlu emphasized in the same interview, the Syrian people took to the streets as an extension of the Arab Spring for a more democratic administration to replace the oppressive Baath regime, but in time, the reaction also became directed at not only the political power, but also the Nusayri (Alawite) minority that supported it.
Even though there are more differences than similarities between the Nusayris and the Shiites, this risk should not be completely disregarded given that, together with the effect of the strategic partnership between Tehran and Damascus, Sunni-Nusayri tension in Syria could spread to the entire region as a Sunni-Shiite conflict. There will, necessarily, be reverberations of this bitter development in Turkey.
In the event that an international intervention in Syria (one that could last long) triggers a civil war, the stance to be adopted by the Kurds in this country directly interests Ankara. There are serious claims that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has recently re-established very strong relations with the Baath regime and that al-Assad may use this organization as a tool to blackmail Ankara.
As a result, it is good and it is correct to side with the people against the Syrian regime, but it is not wise to side with military intervention.
Ruşen Çakır is a columnist for daily Vatan in which this piece appeared on Jan 23. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.
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