Jump into Syria to commit suicide
Turkey should categorically avoid sending its army into Syria whatever the goal or justification there may be unless there is a direct and open military attack from the country.
There is no existing reason that obliges Turkey to stage a military intervention against its southern neighbor or for it to join such an intervention; however, it is possible to list at least 10 realistic reasons to keep Turkey out of Syria.
One: At this stage, it is not possible for Ankara or any other capital in the world to construct a strategy for exiting Syria let alone entering it. At this moment in the world, there is no capital that has a realistic and reasonable plan regarding Syria. The only word that sums up the situation is “uncertainty.” The reason for this is that in Syria, a consistent opposition that the world can rely on, in other words an alternative, has not yet emerged.
Two: Without an exit strategy, deploying troops to Syria to form a buffer zone just to protect the Sunnis from the massacres of the regime will only result in the de facto segmentation of the country on the axis of religion, sect and ethnicity, in other words, its “Lebanonization.” Moreover, it is a puzzle on its own on where the boundaries of the buffer zone would be drawn.
Three: The arms and equipment in the Turkish Armed Forces’ inventory do not have the required quantity and features to enable the staging of this kind of asymmetric intervention with minimum civilian casualties. An immediate supply of these kinds of arms and equipment from Western allies in an environment of intervention will create some moral problems open to abuse.
Four: Turkey is dependent on Russia and Iran, Syria’s strategic allies, for energy. Nobody can guarantee that the flow of natural gas will not be used as a weapon against Turkey in the event of an intervention against Syria.
Five: The Kurdish issue is Turkey’s “Achilles’ heel;” it’s its open wound. There are reports coming, which are unconfirmed but surely true, that the Baath regime has started covertly supporting the PKK as a result of Turkey’s support for the opposition in Syria. If there is an intervention in question, it would be attributed to its very nature that not only Baathist elements but also Iran will poke Turkey’s open wound.
Six: Sending troops into Syria also carries the strong risk for Ankara that the Kurdish issue will become internationalized.
Seven: War does not happen without money. A war indeed will create huge burdens on Turkey’s budget. An intervention in spring means, at least, the end of the tourism season before it event starts. Let’s not forget the PKK also threatens Turkish tourism industry.
Eight: Turkey has been polarized by the government and is a country that is separated spiritually. It is absurd to expect a unionist-solidarity reaction from a public that is separated on the axes of Alevi-Sunni, Kurdish-Turkish, secular-Islamist for an unnecessary war. That is, of course, if that unnecessary war will not be used as justification to further oppress the opposition and silence the media…
Nine: With spring, the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear sites will become more serious than ever before. If this possibility becomes a reality in parallel with Turkey’s Syria intervention, the picture that will emerge, namely a “Turkey-Israel alliance against the Iran-Syria axis,” will probably distress the most anti-Israeli AKP elite.
Ten: Turkey says on Syria that “all options are on the table” and says an intervention should be made by regional countries. Turkey is a regional country but not an Arab one. Even if the reason is saving Sunni brothers, Sunni capitals will react to the Ottomans’ heir, Turkey, entering Arab Syria while suspicions of Ankara’s new Ottomanist ambitions in the region will rise exceedingly.
Kadri Gürsel is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece was published on March 26. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.