Guarantors of Syria

Guarantors of Syria

Russia’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Turkey’s Vladimir Putin this week to discuss the Syria quagmire in addition to pushing Turkish-Russian bilateral trade volume from the current 30 billion-dollar level to over 100 billion dollars. Naturally, the two iron men think very similarly on the Syrian issue, as both of them stressed, but they disagree on what that “same” indeed is.

Entering the meeting, which occurred after a two-month delay due to the Russian leader’s back pain, in a rather apolitical manner, the Russian guest reminded the audience of a famous quotation from Anton Chekhov, “If in Act I you have a pistol hanging on the wall, then it must fire in the last act!” He was obviously expressing his strong displeasure with preparations to deploy a Patriot missile defense system on Turkish territory against the probability – which even the Turkish president says is almost nil – of a Syrian chemical or nuclear attack on Turkey.

There is a famous Turkish saying that goes, “I tell it to you, my daughter; you should understand my daughter-in-law.” It is one way of passing on nasty messages to the daughter-in-law without humiliating her. At least that’s the aim. Russia most likely does not buy the argument that NATO’s Patriots would be deployed on Turkish territory to fend off attacks from Syria. It perhaps, like Iran, perceives a threat in that development, thinking that the anti-missile defense system and its accompanied advanced surveillance system would be deployed against itself as a complement to the NATO systems deployed in Malatya a while ago. Perceptions are of course important particularly if a government bashes one country every other day but under the duress of a big ally undertakes whatever is required to satisfy that country’s security obsession.

No one can have the luxury of ignoring the massive human suffering continuing in Syria. It has become an absolute must for the international community of nations, but more so for the immediate neighbors, to contribute to a return to normalcy in Syria. Russia, a key ally of the Syrian Baathist regime, wants an end to the Syrian civil war without regime change. Ankara, a country that “thinks very much the same” as Russia, wants the creation of an advanced democracy of the Shariah Muslim Brotherhood in Damascus. Russia is supplying arms and ammunition to the Syrian government to fight the rebels; Ankara, together with Riyadh, Doha and of course Washington, are sparing no effort in helping and guiding the rebels to fight the Syrian government. After all, they all want the “same” for Syria.

One is a guarantor of the rebels; one is a guarantor of the Baath… What’s that “same”? Could it be the total demolition of Syria? Turkey’s Putin and Russia’s Erdoğan, the two champions of democracy, are promoting democracy together in Damascus. One is supporting the rebels killing people brutally in the name of Islam; the other is supporting the tyrant killing the rebels. Could it be that is why the two great people committed to “advanced democracy” say they want the “same” in Syria?