Big troubles of the little neighbor

Big troubles of the little neighbor

Sometimes little neighbors may cause big troubles. People in the Middle East see themselves at the center of the world; however let alone bearing the responsibilities of being at the center, they do not even tidy up their own yards. Some administrations which get their power from their positive or negative relations with the strong, rather than from their own people, consider their citizens as their subjects, and the criticizers as their enemies. The most significant example of this case recently is the Syrian administration. The administrations in this country, which can be considered as rather a small country with its economy, population and development rates, have not brought peace to their citizens nor they have got on well with their neighbors. The reason for continuity of these administrations is the advantages brought by their geostrategic location.
After 400 years of Ottoman domination the Syrian state established under French occupation announced independence in 1946. Since then the country as experienced 10 military coups, 3 wars, an occupation (Syria’s occupation of Lebanon with 40 thousand soldiers for 30 years), and two big rebellions. Until the last uprising Syria has changed 9 temporary constitutions and has ruled the country under “extraordinary status” for more than 30 years with the excuse of “liberty war” against Israel. People have suffered poorness and deprived from basic rights and freedoms. Uprisings have been suppressed with power; the massacre in Hama in 1982 has been recorded as the largest massacre in the Arab world. The Syrian army, which attacked the city from land and air, killed between 20000-40000 people within 3 weeks.
As the situation inside is such, the Syrian administration, except some short terms, never had good relations with neighbors. Syria had supported PKK against Turkey for many years, and shown some Turkish territories as part of their lands in their maps, and consider them as “seized lands”. Although they receive sufficient amount of water from Euphrates River, they have built artificial lakes to direct flow of Asi River, which prevents Turkey from benefiting from this river as much as they could. Syria has never established warm relations with southern neighbor Jordan. As for Iraq, although the same party was in power in both countries for long years, they have both supported military coup attempts in each other’s countries and were at odds most of the time. After 2003 the terrorists in Syria have moved to Iraq. Baath officials of Iraq, after escaping the country, have been organized in Syria and directed the terrorist activities in Iraq from this country. Lebanon is considered as part of the “Great Syria” and was occupied by this country with 30 thousand soldiers in 1976. After 30 years of occupation, Syria was forced to withdraw from Lebanon after it was held responsible for the assassination Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. However Syrian intelligence is still active in Lebanon. Relations with Israel are at war situation after Israel occupied Syrian territories of Golan Heights.
Syria uses this “war situation” with Israel to receive continuous support from Arab countries and is considered as a “frontier” country. This has strengthened the geostrategic location of Syria and caused establishment of strategic relations with Iran and Russia. Iran supports Hezbollah only over Syria. Russia is trying to be a major actor in the region via Syria and has no other chance to access the Mediterranean Sea except from its base in the Tartus Port in this country. Thus Syrian administration is remaining in power not by the support of its people but through the support from external powers.
Bloody Spring
The change in the Middle East, which started with Iraq, continued in other Arab countries with a different dimension named as the “Arab Spring”. The totalitarian regimes have lost the ability to hide the developments in social and technological aspects in the world with the expansion of globalization. Arab nations, which were delayed with tales like “liberating Palestine”, saw that their regimes did not have such concerns and start to raise their voices for their basic rights and freedoms. Change was inevitable after these demands were triggered by international interest and great powers. Syrian people rebelled after Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen. However the spring in Syria continues in a bloody way.
Syria uses its relations very well and turns these relations into an advantage for its regime. The conditions in the region have never been as complex as it is now. Iran, which aims to be the great power of the region, whilst keeping Israel under threat with the Shiite Hezbollah, on the other hand tries to increase its influence in the Shiite areas especially Iraq. In addition, it refuses to open its nuclear program to international supervision. The Western countries and the Sunni powers of the region are concerned about Iran’s policies and aim to surround and punish this country if possible. Terror organizations like Al Qaeda and PKK, which are originated from this region, benefit from this chaos as much as possible. Whilst Iran is trying to establish a “Shiite Crescent” by surrounding Turkey and influencing Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, it perceives any change in Syria as a disadvantage for its benefits. Therefore they are providing the maximum support they can afford to the Assad regime in Syria. As for Russia; it has strategic relations currently only with Syria in the region, and has no intention to abandon this region. In such a case it will lose its biggest arms market and its base in Tartus port in this country. In addition, Russia’s support to Iran for its nuclear program is known by everyone. Shortly, Russia does not want to leave this oil-rich region to the West. As for other regional powers; Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which has Shiite population dominated oil zones, support a change in Syria. For Turkey, the stability in Syria and preventing settlement of PKK in this country is a priority. As long as the uprising continues, the flow of the refuges to Turkey would put Turkey into a difficult situation. Turkey supports the Syrian nation’s will for the change of the regime. In Iraq, the Shiite government supports the Syrian regime with the pressure from Iran.
Looking into the internal dynamics of Syria; the power is in the hands of the Nusayrids (Alevites), which from only 10 % of the population. Therefore it is certain that the new government will be formed of the Sunnis. The most organized groups of the opposition are the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) and the Kurds. The Assad regime have not recognized the existence of the Turcoman groups, which have a population between 1.5 to 3 millions, and has not deprived them from basic rights and freedoms. Considering that Al Qaeda and PKK has passed from Iraq to Syria to benefit from the situation, it is possible to see how complex the situation is.
For all these factors Syria is experiencing a real civil war. The regime does not abstain using its tanks, planes and artillery against the people and has turned Syrian cities into ruins. Turcoman groups are among those who suffer most and cities where they live like Aleppo are being destroyed. The international community seems unwilling to interfere despite thousands of people have been killed. US, after their failure in Iraq, wants a gradual and controlled change in Syria, and abstain from a direct interference due to the approaching presidential elections. West, concerned from the strengthening of extremist groups like al Qaeda in Syria, are waiting for the “maturation” of the opposition. The plan is to assign the top administrative and military officials, who fled from Assad’s regime, into the National Council and the Free Syrian Army, and thus form an organization that will protect the unity and the structure of the country.
Where is Syria going?
The uprising in Syria has now exceeded one year and is expanding every day. Assad regime tries to suppress the uprising brutally. However it is now too late and the regime is losing ground each day. Turkey is providing shelter to more than 60 thousand refugees currently. However the flow of refugees to Turkey continues every day. Therefore it is thought to establish a safe haven near the Turkish-Syrian border both to protect the civilians and to establish refugee camps. Syrian people will finally reach freedom and democracy. Syrian Turcoman people will also be taking their place in the new term as one of the main elements of the country. Turkey will always support a regime, which is democratic and respectful to its internal dynamics.