The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

Cengiz Candar on Turkey and Syria

Radikal November 19 – a column by the Cengiz Candar, one of the best writers around on the mideast. Its title: “How Does Turkey Look at Syria?”

The regime in Syria is not going to be brought down by a “foreign military operation” the way the regime in Iraq was toppled by the United States or that in Libya by NATO.

It appears that Syria is going to create interesting situations in Turkey’s domestic political spectrum and political thought structure. The “process of change” proceeding in a bloody manner in the neighbouring country, with which we share our longest border, at 911 kilometres, is upsetting a number of long-established ideas. And it is confusing a good many people.

Two CHP [Republican People’s Party] delegations travelled at a close interval to Damascus as a “solidarity trip” with the regime of tyranny and dictatorship in Syria. This form of behaviour is traditional in those circles. [Former CHP leader and former Prime Minister] Bulent Ecevit had twice rushed off to Baghdad to show solidarity with [former Iraqi President] Saddam [Husayn].

A case of more tacit “solidarity” has been observed in the PKK. It is not escaping notice that the PKK media organs have been using language that is expressly protective of the Damascus administration.

There are signs that, during a period in Turkey in which an “atmosphere of war” with the PKK has replaced the “negotiations process,” the relations between the Ba’thist regime and the PKK, the roots of which extend back into the long years during which the PKK lived under the wings of Syria, and lasted until 1999, are once again undergoing rejuvenation. I know at a minimum that the “power core” in Syria, or expressed in other words the “Al-Asad/Al-Makhluf family,” has spoken of “playing the PKK card against Turkey”; I know this directly from a source to whom they expressed these thoughts.

I have mentioned numerous times previously that because of the PKK’s traditional but crude mode of thinking that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” its decision to “dance” on the “Iranian/Syrian dance floor” amounts to “betting on a losing horse.”

There are also other circles that are watching tearfully the inevitable collapse of the Syrian regime, and among these, paradoxically, are included a portion of the “Islamists” who are very close to the [Turkish] government.

Because these people believe that behind every development in every corner of the world, as well as in the Middle East, there is a “master plan” written by the United States, and because their minds are full of the “GME” [Greater Middle East plan], which is synonymous with ungodliness, they feel an allergy against any development that puts Syria and consequently Iran in front of them, and so they are stressing the likelihood of Turkey’s getting involved in an “adventure” against Syria.

Respect for Syrian People

Such people do not appear to be aware of the strangeness of their having gotten onto the same wavelength as both the CHP, which has always subscribed to an “isolationist” foreign policy, and the PKK, and indeed that despite their thoroughly Sunni identity, they are defending a regime that is based on a Nusayri/Alawite core. Or else, because they try to perceive the world on the basis of a fixation on the United States, they are just not uncomfortable with this “contradiction.”

In this mindset, the “human element,” the fact that the most important actor in history is “people,” is not included. They do not see the people of Syria who are dying and shedding their blood, and do not respect them. Rather than looking at the Syrian people who have been confronting tyranny in the streets for the past eight months, they are turning their eyes towards the secret rooms in Washington, into which they will never be able to see. And while doing so, they do not take into account the fact that they have thus given their blessing to a tyrannical dictatorship.

They are not aware of what stage history in the Middle East has arrived at via the “revolution” triggered in Tunisia, nor of the fact that a very major portion of the people of Syria are forcing “change,” even a t the price of their blood.

The people of Syria have with their tremendous self-sacrifice so impacted the Arab world that the 22-member Arab League eliminated the legitimacy of the Syrian regime with only two votes opposed. Those who opposed this were the government of Lebanon, which is propped up by the Hizballah organization that owes its existence to Damascus, and Yemen, whose situation is no different from that of Syria.

Despite the fact that they themselves are repressive regimes no different from that of Syria, even Sudan and Algeria were unable to oppose the withdrawal of the Arab covering from the legitimacy of Bashar al-Asad. And even King Abdullah II of Jordan, who is known for his caution and for not entering into the breach, did not shrink from saying that “Bashar al-Asad should go.”

What is Out of the Question?

The Arab League, in the meeting it held on 16 November in Morocco, gave Bashar a three-day deadline, and announced that if its demands were not met, it would implement sanctions.

The support being withdrawn from Damascus is not limited just to the Arabs. China, which is one of the two members of the UN Security Council that has been supportive of the Bashar regime, has slowly begun to turn. And no one can be confident that Russia’s support will continue indefinitely.

It is being heard that even Iran, which it is understood will stand by the regime to the end, is making calculations for the post-Bashar period.

Since all the indications show that it is impossible for the regime in Syria to remain standing, Turkey’s taking a “pro-change” position is correct, because it is acting in accord with the trend of history.

The regime is going to depart, as far as that goes, but within how long a period will it depart, how will it depart, and what will it take with it when it departs? These are the unknowns.

The question that is currently coming up is that of “outside intervention” and whether or not Turkey will be included in this outside intervention. In the expression of a top-level Turkish official who gave a “behind the scenes” briefing to a group of members of the press, this is “out of the question”!

The regime in Syria is not going to be brought down by a “foreign military operation” as in the examples of the way the regime in Iraq was toppled by the United States invasion or the [Muammar] Al-Qadhafi regime in Libya by a NATO operation.

So what is expected?

The answer comes in English; the expectation is for the regime in Syria to ‘implode’ [final word in English]. In other words, to collapse inwardly, as when a building collapses in an earthquake.

Well, then, what about the likelihood of Turkey, with a military initiative, forming a “buffer zone” within its own borders?

It is on the table! But only in the event of developments like a wave of tens of thousands of refugees coming into the realm of possibility, such as took place in Northern Iraq in 1991, or else the regime’s entering into a wave of massacres in Aleppo and the vicinity.

Lessons Learned From Iraq

It is clear from the following words that Turkey has drawn lessons from the 1991 Gulf War, and that it is determined not to repeat the “mistakes” it made regarding Iraq during the period 1991-2003: “Turkey did not open its own territory to the Iraqi opposition during those days. The Iraqi opposition organized in London and elsewhere. The same error has not been made this time.”

For the Syrian opposition to find a space for itself in Turkey can be perceived as Turkey’s investment in those who will take the place of the current regime in Syria, the survival of which is being seen as impossible, or, in other words, in the “new Syria.”

Turkey, by ceasing to be a regional power that “favours the status quo” and turning into a regional power that “favours change in the region,” is becoming one of the primary players shaping the future of the region.

In this point of view, the prediction that “regional power will no longer be achieved via dictators within nation-state structures, but by the installation of democracy everywhere” is key.

From this standpoint, the interests of Turkey and the United States coincide. We also learn from the top-level official that “Turkish-American relations are proceeding in a period of the most intense cooperation and contact in history.”

It is essential that the principles that show the way to foreign policy and the approach to the region also prevail within Turkey as well. Because every instance of stumbling in terms of democracy within Turkey will also create difficulties for the foreign policy being pursued.

The ruling party should note this somewhere, and never let this slip from its mind…



Written by nickbiddlenoe

November 21, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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