How would you like your Syria, Sir?
Sunni Islamist! And subservient to the emerging Turkish empire… Thus would reply your Turkish Islamist, so cheerfully, like a child being asked which chocolate, toy, game and cartoon film he would like. Sadly, what the child gets is blood running like a river instead of chocolate, a home-made Frankenstein instead of a cute toy, a dramatic game that he continually loses instead of a game for fun, and a self-ridiculing cartoon film featuring Don Q. and Sancho P. instead of the grandeur of a film that features the times of Saladdin al-Ayubi.
The Turkish gambit to replace secular but undemocratic regimes in Syria and Egypt is an official failure today. Ankara does not admit failure for the sake of not admitting failure. That is another Islamist bounty: We should not admit failure in order not to look weak for if we look weak, we will be weaker and could be defeated by the enemy – whoever the enemy is. So, it is always preferable to look ridiculous than weak and ridiculous.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) keeps on murdering en masse. That is Turkey’s own Frankenstein story. Just like Frankenstein’s creator, Turkey now feels compelled to fight the monster it helped raise into adolescence. In fact, ISIL, for the Turkish Islamists, is a “distant” ideological next of kin which could have been a useful tool to build a Sunni Islamist Syria subservient to the emerging Turkish empire. Too bad, the jihadists went too far and astray, occasionally embarrassing Ankara.
In all reality, Turkey’s wish list for Syria ranges between the grandeur of surrealism and a childish quest for chocolate, toys, games and cartoon films of choice, all at the same time. ISIL has to be fought. And it has to be fought at land, not just by air strikes. Right? Right. That means some unlucky soldiers must put their boots on the difficult terrain.
What are the options? Turkey wants some soldiers to fight ISIL on the ground but not its own. Fine. Turkey does not want Shiite soldiers, either or both from Iran and Shiite Lebanon or Iraq to fight ISIL either. That would cater to Shiism which the Turkish Sunni Islamists inherently stand against.
The Kurds to fight ISIL? Yes and no. The idea that someone else other than the Turkish conscripts – whose potential casualties would cause outrage at home at election time and provoke ISIL to commit acts of terror in Turkey, again, at election time – would be great and most welcome. But then what if there is a second Kurdistan emerging under the prefix of “north” after Iraq? Iraqi Kurdistan is fine. Syrian Kurdistan is not so fine. Because, when combined, they might be too dangerous, as if calling for a third one, this time with the prefix “southeastern.”
Who else should, in the Turkish Islamist dreams, be fighting ISIL and the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad? The answer is the Western powers which Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s “Strategic Depth” meticulously suggests should be kept away from intervening in the Muslim Middle East. Unluckily, Western – Christian – boots on Muslim Syrian soil is not an option.
Turkey wants “boots” on the ground in Syria, but not its own soldiers’. Not the Shiite militiamen’s. Not the Kurds’. It wants “Christian” boots on the ground in Syria in an “at my convenience” manner. But it knows that the “Christian world” is no longer naïve enough to do the Turkish job through non-Turkish blood.
Mr. Davutoğlu can always seek soldiers from Bolivia or Vanuatu to fight ISIL in Syria. Or a contingent from Benin. The prime minister should be able to understand that the geopolitical world he lives in is no longer 2009. If he wants to “correct” Syria, he should take the risk. All the same, for the wellness of the Middle East, Mr. Davutoğlu should not take any further risks.