Romney, too, against a no-fly zone over Syria

Romney, too, against a no-fly zone over Syria

President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney clashed on foreign policy in their final debate Oct. 22 with two weeks left to Election Day Nov. 6. Squeezed into a barren discussion over local polls and during a long Feast of the Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha) holiday, the Obama-Romney debate has drawn only a narrow group’s attention, from government circles to the Foreign Ministry and to think-tankers.

Among so many other foreign policy issues on which the two candidates tried to challenge each other, perhaps the Syrian issue was the one on which both men shared almost similar views.

Coordination with Turkey was one of the common points, both politicians mentioned in their statements. Mobilizing “moderate forces” inside of Syria, helping the opposition to organize and not being so eager to give heavy weapons to the Free Syrian Army forces are among messages Obama gave. However, he also underlined, “Ultimately, Syrians are going to have to determine their own future,” in a perhaps indirect response to Turkey’s statement that Faruq al-Shara could replace Bashar al-Assad.

For his part, Romney seemed to analyze the Syrian problem over a region-based vision by placing Israel’s security on top of it. “We need to make sure as well that we coordinate this effort with our allies, and particularly with – with Israel,” he said, also adding that the collapse of the Syrian regime would also weaken Iran and its ally Hezbollah in the region.

Like Obama, the Republican candidate also tried to draw a picture of a politician promoting peaceful means rather than armed conflicts, in contrast to Republican traditions. “We don’t want to have military involvement there. We don’t want to get drawn into a military conflict,” he said, obviously preferring to use a passive form of sentence like “get drawn into a conflict.”

Upon moderator Bob Schieffer’s question whether he would put in no-fly zones over Syria if elected, Romney repeated his noninterventionist mood, saying, “I don’t want to have our military involved in Syria. I don’t think there is a necessity to put our military in Syria at this stage. I don’t anticipate that in the future.”

For many in Ankara, a second term for Obama is still the best for Turkey’s interests given the ongoing close coordination between the two allies. However, the path is not clear of landmines. One of the most important issues will still be the fight against terror with apparent frustration in Washington over Turkish officials’ continued criticisms of insufficient support they receive from the U.S.

A top U.S. commander arrived in Ankara on Oct. 23 for anti-terror talks after the top American envoy openly expressed his “sadness and annoyance” over Turks’ doubting the willingness of the U.S. to support Turkey in its anti-PKK fight.

In case of Obama’s re-election, which is more likely, there is no doubt that the two sides will have to sit around the same table and review their regional visions to establish a common one with common methodologies. Otherwise, Obama’s second term will not be as pleasant as for Turks as the first term was.