The Syria quicksand

The Syria quicksand

As Operation Euphrates Shield turns into Turkey’s full-fledged war in Syria – rather than the initially intended role to provide aerial and land bombardment support to the “moderate Islamist” Free Syrian Army (FSA) – Turkey’s loses and reactions started to increase. Isn’t there anything abnormal about that? Turks have always feared of the possibility of being sucked into the Syria quicksand, which unfortunately appears to be happening now.

Opposing war, rejecting violence and refusing to applaud a parade of body bags should be considered a humane attitude. If rather than a role supporting the FSA, which Turkey has taken on a combative role or indeed the way it exposed to the Turkish society that the country was in war, is it abnormal to ask “What are we doing there?”

“If we don’t go there, terrorists will strike here,” a self-declared anti-terrorism expert once said. This has been the psychological disorder the world inherited from the former United States president George W. Bush’s administration. Preemptive strike, it was explained at the time, was aimed at hitting potential threats outside the country so that they would not strike the U.S. It was a post-9/11 phenomenon. Now from the tenant of the extravagant palace to the defense minister, who before being appointed to that post has probably never ever thought what defense indeed was, everyone in executive positions and their allies are making the same defense: “Should we not kill them in their dens to disallow them to come here and kill us?”

The al-Bab operation in Syria, that Turkey is currently active in, is a very painful one. First the death toll was 14, and then became 16 and now it is 18, and will be increasing as there were over 100 soldiers seriously wounded in the fighting around the town’s hospital region in the suburbs. “A very strategic point has been captured, the city is now under siege, God willing, the city will be taken soon,” it was officially explained.

Neither the statements “If we do not go there, they will come here” nor “If we cannot take al-Bab, we may lose Diyarbakır” can be considered as a reasonable justification to Turkey’s presence in the conflict of the Operation Euphrates Shield. Were we not remaining holding the “supportive” role? Who was telling Turks that there would be no boots on the ground – meaning no on ground combative role – but the land operation would be assumed solely by the FSA, the relatively milder Islamists in Syria? What happened? Are the claims correct that Turkey realized what a bad performance the FSA demonstrated, accepted that nothing could be achieved with such a force and decided to engage in combat directly?

Furthermore, President Erdoğan’s statement that al-Bab was about to be taken but the Turkish military would later continue in Manbij, and if a deal could be worked out with the U.S., a joint operation on Al-Raqqa would as well be on the horizon…

What does that mean? Obviously the president was confessing that Turkey’s presence in Syria could not be counted with days, weeks or even months.

Obviously whatever happens in Syria, it will have an impact on Turkey. Before the Syria quagmire turned into a civil war, the one that many writers were warning about. The “Arab Spring” was turning into an “Arab fire” when analysts started to warn Ankara that it should keep in mind a fire in the neighbor’s house could jump onto ours was very possible. Indeed, can anyone say there was no role of the Syrian problem in the bombs going off here and there every other day in this country, taking away lives of our most precious ones?

Accusing people honestly trying to get an answer to a clear “What’s our business in Syria?” of talking like a nut unaware of the world or lacking the capacity to understand “Turkey’s defense starts from Syria” is as nonsense as the claim that Turkey did not enter Syria, so the failed Sevres Treaty would be rehashed and served again. Indeed, the civil war in Syria poses existential threat to Turkey. To resolve it, rather than taking unilateral action, Turkey should have coordinated with the Syrian government, helped restore government rule and left the regime problem of the neighboring country to be resolved by the Syrians themselves. That chance was missed when Turkey became part of the fight in Syria years ago… 

What to do now? Anyone has an idea?