The problem of fine-tuning policies on Syria

The problem of fine-tuning policies on Syria

The developments in Syria may unfold with several different courses, the main scenarios of which we can consider as such:

The first scenario is that the opposition movement gains unexpected momentum and strengthens, topples the regime within a short period of time through its pressure and democracy is quickly adopted. This is probably the scenario that decision-makers in Ankara wish to see happen the most these days. But when Syria’s internal dynamics are considered, there is a weak possibility that this scenario could happen immediately.

Another scenario that has to be considered is that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, against the pressure created by a strong opposition movement, takes one step back and consents to a reconciliation model where he shares power with opposition groups in a controlled way. It seems, however, as if there is a general consensus that the threshold where this reconciliation could have been reached was left behind long ago.

A more realistic scenario is that the clashes – with their intensity escalating and weakening from time to time – become spread over a very long period of time. This scenario describes a civil war where some settlement centers would be controlled by opposition groups.

But there is another scenario that should not be entirely disregarded either. And that is, despite all the international pressure and severe domestic opposition, the Baath regime in Damascus survives even though this survival becomes more difficult each day. When considering that all bridges were burned mutually, this possibility is the one that would frustrate Turkey the most.

The policy is essentially correct but…

Whichever one of these scenarios come true, each of them has crucial consequences for Turkey in almost every field, including foreign policy, security, politics and the economy.

Turkey, as soon as the winds named “Arab Spring” started blowing, took the stance supporting the demands for change and democracy in the Middle East. We have the examples of this stance in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. These examples, in general terms, point to a consistency in direction.

Consequently, Turkey’s choice to take the side of the people voicing their demand for change and not the side of a Syrian regime who resorted to merciless violence against its own citizens is in harmony with this policy.

Even though the option selected is essentially correct, the real question is the inability to make a fine adjustment while expressing this option.

Major problems in this context appear to be those proclamations that frequently imply the usage of military power, the presentation of the developments in Syria as Turkey’s internal issue and the extremely tough tones dominating the discourse.

Kurdish issue creates conflict

The fact that Turkey has staked out such a stark position against Syria poses a series of drawbacks. The first one of these is that, with such a sharp attitude, Turkey is keeping the door open to the expectation of an instant contribution in the event the West chooses the military option against Syria in the future.

Another drawback stems from the conflicting situation created by Turkey’s diversion from its own domestic issues, especially from the democratic initiative in the Kurdish issue. The Syrian regime’s actions against opposition groups coincides with a time when Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) members are being subjected to mass arrests, when elected deputies are kept in jails and when the space for the Kurdish political movement to operate within democratic bounds is being entirely constricted in Turkey.

Also, will the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, which has adopted such a critical attitude against Syria, be able to demonstrate the same principled attitude against the Tehran regime when similar movements erupt in Iran in the future? It is useful to contemplate this question starting now.

*Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece appeared on Oct. 12. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.