Turkey’s frustration with Syria vs US frustration with Iran
Just as Turkey was stepping up pressure on the Syrian regime - by uniting the opposition in one umbrella organization with the aim of making it recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people - the international community (in the form of Kofi Annan) stepped in to strike a deal with Bashar al–Assad. It is not hard to imagine the frustration of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, as Syria’s acceptance of the UN and Arab League envoy’s plan came as a setback to its efforts to speed up the fall of al–Assad.
This is exactly how the U.S. and its allies must have felt two years ago when, just as the international community (in the form of UN Security Council) was preparing to take new measures to increase pressure on Iran, Turkey (together with Brazil) struck a deal with its neighbor.
Recently, we have read press reports that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan objects to his Iranian counterpart’s arguments about giving a chance to al–Assad by saying: “You tell us to be patient. But how long are we supposed to be patient.”
This must, more or less, be what Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu must have heard from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during their weekend meeting in Istanbul. In fact Clinton went on the record as saying that the window of opportunity for peaceful resolution of Iran’s nuclear program would not remain open forever.
We also read in the press how Erdoğan expressed his doubt on the success of Annan plan, saying: “He never kept his promises to us. I don’t trust him, not even one bit.” Davutoğlu also said that al–Assad had only accepted the plan as a tactical move.
This is probably what Clinton must have felt, even if she did not tell the Erdoğan- Davutoğlu duo when they tried to convince her about Iran’s peaceful nuclear intentions. The duo’s message that the Iranian Supreme Leader viewed weapons of mass destruction as religiously prohibited and against Islam must have sounded ridiculous to the ears of Clinton, just as it must have sounded equally ridiculous to Erdoğan and Davutoğlu when they heard from the Iranians that the Syrian turmoil was the job of Zionists.
It is quiet striking to see how Turkey has managed to diverge itself from the majority in the international community. On Iran, it is one of the few (and nearly the only one in the Western camp) to be so understanding about Tehran’s controversial nuclear program, while in Syria it stands alone with only a handful countries having placed all its bets on al–Assad’s departure.
Turkey’s Syria policy is especially an example case of how the ruling AKP’s “proactive” policy has turned to a hyperactivity, prematurely landing Turkey in a position with no choice but to work actively for the departure of al–Assad.
As one European diplomat said during the Istanbul meeting: “al–Assad will remain for less time than he thinks, but for longer than we think.”
Turkey’s proactive stance is making it increasingly difficult to adapt.