The opening of Turkey’s Syria venture
Turkey seems to be ready to lead the mission in Syria. The government has hesitated to take a stand against Assad, when the opposition rallies first started last spring in Syria. At the time, most of the ex-Islamist writers opposed to the idea of confrontation with Syria and defined it as a trap of the imperialists to “divide and rule” the Muslim world.
Until recently, Ali Bulaç (Zaman) kept criticizing those who support the idea of Turkey’s engagement in Syria as a risky game which would lead not only to sectarian civil war, but more importantly would lead to regional war along sectarian lines between Sunnis and Shiites. Nevertheless, the conservative criticism came to an abrupt end when it is understood that the government is determined to engage. Moreover, now Islamist/conservative media shares the same enthusiasm concerning the encouragement of the government to engage.
The ex-Islamists and conservatives have always proved to be very “pragmatic” in their discourse and policy towards West. Whenever they realize that it is in the interest of their government to be on the side of Western policies they tend to forget their ever alive “skepticism” of the West and become arch supporters. Nevertheless, not only skepticism towards the West remains firm, but rightwing political imagination remains to be defined by stories of Western conspiracy.
In fact, I do not know if this attitude can be defined only as “pragmatism” as Western observers of the Turkish politics wish it to be. The conservatives are “pragmatic” in many ways because they are power hungry. They tended to be flexible and pragmatic as long as they needed the support of liberal intellectuals, but did not hesitate to turn their back when they felt strong enough. Likewise, Turkish foreign policy proves to be flexible enough since the Western support has ultimate importance not only concerning the ambitions of the AKP government in regional politics but also in domestic politics.
By being the darling ally of the West, who will take the prime responsibility of the Western politics in Syria? Erdoğan feels free to put iron fist on his internal opponents and critics, moreover tends to crush the Kurdish political circles without facing any criticism. His calculations work well so far, since Turkey has never been so free of the criticism of “the international community” while there are so many problems concerning democratic freedoms. On the contrary, not one day passes without this or that Western politician or observer cherishing Erdoğan and the AKP model. The last example is that the “good news” about Erdoğan is going to be the cover of the coming Time magazine. Thank goodness the subtitle is not “the commander of Syria” yet!