Is the Reyhanlı attack just a beginning?
Hours after the tragic terrorist attack that hit the town of Reyhanlı in Hatay province on the Syrian border and killed 51 Turkish citizens, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu drew attention to the timing of the explosions in an obvious reference to the international efforts to topple the Bashar al-Assad regime. He also echoed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s assessment linking the attack to the government’s initiative to solve the Kurdish issue.
Amid growing concerns that chemical weapons have started to be used in Syria and calls for increasing pressure on Damascus through an international conference bringing Russia and the United States together, the attack in Reyhanlı has multiple messages for the Turkish government and the international community.
The core of these messages (conveyed by Damascus as Turkish officials openly said they have evidence that the attack was organized by the al-Assad regime) is related with Turkey’s Syria policy. Coming nearly three months after the Cilvegözü (a border gate on the Turkish-Syrian frontier) attack that killed 17 people, the Reyhanlı explosions, however, reflect that the power behind the attack wanted to increase the tone of its warnings against Turkey.
Hatay, a multiethnic and multi-sectarian city, seems to be the theater in which the Syrian regime is intending to export its own crisis, in a more direct way to show that Turkey has similar vulnerabilities. Causing outrage among the local people against Syrian refugees and Syrian opposition groups is also adding further fuel to this uneasiness in this border town that also pushed the opposition groups to slam the government’s Syria policy.
It’s not yet certain how this attack will help the international community to adopt a linear line about how the political transition will take place in Syria. On the eve of Erdoğan’s scheduled meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, the address of the hopes has become Moscow as Russian and American officials agreed to hold an international conference. British Prime Minister David Cameron, who held talks with Obama on May 13, welcomed Russia’s decision to join an effort to achieve a political solution but stressed, “There is no more urgent international task than this. We need to get the Syrians to the table to agree a transitional government that can win the consent of all of the Syrian people.”
It’s been perhaps a very long time since Turkey has left the idea of bringing the representatives of the regime and the opposition together to find a formula for the political transition behind. No doubt, hearing scenarios on political transition with al-Assad remaining his office is making Turkish officials’ blood run cold.
With Turkey remaining the forefront country in plans to change the regime in Syria, it would unfortunately continue to be the target of its adversary. Given the huge intelligence neglect that paved the way for such a bloody attack in Reyhanlı, Ankara is much more concerned that it could only be the beginning. This should be the main reason for Erdoğan asking his own Inspection Board to reveal any possible neglect of relevant state institutions.