The winds of war

The winds of war

In an extraordinary session today, the Turkish Parliament gave authority to the government to deploy troops in other countries if and when it finds such an act necessary for national security.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan decided to take such a motion for parliamentary approval after a mortar shell from the Syrian side fell onto a house in the Turkish border town of Akçakale, killing five and wounding eight on Oct. 3. There was a similar incident last week killing one, which the Turks had strongly protested.

Hours after the second incident, Turkish artillery bombarded targets that the Turkish military considered responsible for the killings, the Prime Minister’s office announced. The Turkish Armed Forces have been on high alert along the 910 kilometer-long border with Syria for half a year now, with clashes between the army of the Bashar al-Assad regime and the rebels having escalated into a civil war.

Following the latest incident, Turkey has also applied to the United Nations for more strict measures against the Syrian regime, but this is not very likely since Russia, as a permanent member of the Security Council, may use its veto power for a fourth time to continue its support for al-Assad.

The al-Assad regime accuses Turkey - along with France, Qatar and Saudi Arabia - of giving support to the rebels. The headquarters of the rebel Syrian National Council (SNC) is in Turkey and the headquarters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the biggest armed rebel group fighting, was reportedly moved from Turkey to Syria recently. There are already around 100,000 Syrians seeking refuge in Turkey, and since the civil war there has excelled over the last six months the government believes that Syrian intelligence-backed attacks of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have escalated, too.

Nevertheless, another government motion is waiting on Parliament’s agenda next week, to extend the military’s authority to carry out operations against the PKK bases in northern Iraq in retaliation to the PKK’s cross-border attacks in Turkey, amid protests from the Nouri al-Maliki government in Baghdad.

The Syria motion was approved today with the votes of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which has denounced the government’s move as “a motion of war,” and Kurdish problem-focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), objected to the motion, but they were unable to get it rejected.

The interesting point is that the CHP is likely to support next week’s motion regarding Iraq, on the grounds that it is being proposed in the context of anti-terror. Most probably the bill will pass and the government will secure the permit to carry out operations in both Iraq and Syria. This means that Turkey has declared that there are potential military situations along its borders with southern neighbors. This is quite a change in the Turkish line regarding both countries, when it is considered that not more than two years ago the Erdoğan government was holding joint Cabinet meetings with the leaders of both countries, within the framework of the “zero problems with neighbors” policy promoted by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.

Taking into account the escalating war of words between Israel and Iran, Iran’s support to Syria, Iran and Russia’s displeasure with the new NATO radars in Turkey, and the Syrian regime becoming more aggressive every day, it can easily be said that the Turkish move was not in the direction of soothing down the situation.

The winds of war have started to blow more strongly in the region and nobody knows exactly what will happen after the U.S. presidential elections in a month’s time.