Ankara is mistaken on the topic of Assad
From the beginning, I could not perceive Turkey’s Syria policy.
Once upon a time, because it was nurturing the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Turkey, justifiably, was about to go to war with Syria. In 1998, they expelled Öcalan. Then the father died and his son Bashar al-Assad replaced him. Everything changed.
Especially after 2003, with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, Assad and Erdoðan developed a brand-new relationship. Turkey openly embraced Syria.
Remember, visas were lifted, economic cooperation reached unbelievable figures and joint Cabinet meetings were held. In this manner, comments such that the two countries were almost sharing a common fate appeared.
Such closeness with Syria not only positively affected the Arab world’s view of Turkey but also facilitated Ankara’s diplomatic maneuvers in the region as well as enlarging the sympathy aura.
Then everything went upside down.
Democracy winds blowing with the “Arab Spring” stirred Syria. The opposition rebelled. Assad reacted fiercely. He marched the army onto the streets. Bloody incidents started. People died unnecessarily.
There at this stage Ankara stood up, it took action together with Washington. First friendly warnings, then harsh calls came. At the end, bridges were burned. Turkey, on behalf of democracy and universal human rights, reacted very strongly to its neighbor about what went on. Once upon a time they were bosom buddies with the Erdoðan family, now the prime minister batters Assad almost every day.
That was not enough for Erdoðan. He organized the opposition. Moreover, according to a story-interview by Liam Stack in International Herald Tribune, Turkey started training and arming the “Free Syrian Army” on its territory. Even though they are not equated and not compared, similarly as Syria was supporting the PKK, today Turkey too supports Syria’s opposition powers.
Assad turns out to be a hard nut to crack
Ankara’s expectation was that the Syrian opposition would take to the streets en masse and that the Assad regime would be toppled in a short time.
But, what was expected did not happen.
Either Ankara miscalculated together with Washington or Assad turned out to be a hard nut to crack. More precisely, the international conjuncture came to Assad’s rescue.
Including Turkey, the Western world never considered military intervention in Syria. It was already known that it would have been very dangerous. More importantly, what concerned the West the most and prevented it from increasing pressure was the uncertainty of post Assad.
Add to this the Iranian support for Assad never ceased and that China and Russia’s backed Syria at the U.N. Security Council, then the situation becomes clear.
Today, Assad seems to be in control of the situation in his country. He managed to interlock his supporters. Even Ankara, who said Assad “would fall in weeks,” is now referring to a few years of resistance.
In short, calculations seem to have gone wrong.
While Washington is tackling with its own problems, Turkey was stuck with the task of toppling the power in Syria.
Why? Is it worth it to antagonize such a close neighbor to us by resuscitating old animosities at a time when we are clearing the place of the PKK?
Is there need to go this far?
Beyond Turkey’s reaction to Assad lies the concern of a possible Sunni-Alevi clash. From the beginning, Ankara feared a mass Sunni migration of hundreds of thousands to Turkey if things got worse. But today’s picture does not pose any threat.
Therefore, because of this, I still have not understood the benefit or logic of making Syria our enemy by insisting on this policy in the long run.