Turkey’s Jet Down and Syria Policy

Turkey’s Jet Down and Syria Policy

The unease in Syria, which has been taking place since one year, has brought the relations between Turkey and Syria to a deadlock. Turkey has not remained silent to what has been happening next door, and showed efforts for bilateral solution of the problem. The Asad regime has insisted that the events were an internal problem and therefore no other country should interfere. However, the reaction which Turkey has shown following the downed Turkish jet by Syrians has indicated that the new Turkish diplomacy has a complexity that no one could foresee easily. This is indeed a complexity designed recently by the main actors of the Turkish foreign policy, which gives a taste of politics at critical stages. More clearly Turkey is currently showing a strategic mindset far from impulsive reactions for the shot down of its aircraft.

The cautious statements made hours after the event rather than a sudden reaction has showed that Turkey has been facing the problem in an unexpected level. Turkey’s reluctance or timidity to enter a war is not because Turkey cannot cope with Syria. It is absurd even to argue this. Actually when talking about stopping the brutality of the Syrian regime, the only meaning is not entering a war with Syria. There are many other tasks to accomplish before getting into war and Turkey’s claim is that none of these ways have ever been experienced.

Firstly it is obvious that finding an internal solution to this problem before it turns to an international war is for the benefit of the region and the whole world. Secondly, such a war would give a golden opportunity to the Syrian regime to solve a legitimacy problem, which the country has been facing lately, through a war with Turkey. Thirdly, such a war would give an important excuse for countries patronizing Syria to defend the country. Besides, these countries are not only limited with Russia, Iran and China; there might be some other surprises like Israel, US and some European countries.

The people of the Arab countries expect Turkey to be more active against Syria; this expectation is evident and being expressed clearly. However considering such a strong expectation, it is not clear whether the politicians and the public would show the same positive reaction for an action against Syria by Turkey. This indeed is a very complex equation but a practical problem. It is not a far possibility that the event would turn into a war between the Turks and Arabs.

Unfortunately the international society is still not convinced that the situation in Syria, which is rapidly becoming a new Bosnia, is adverse enough requiring interference. It is in fact strange that the jet crisis has given Turkey the chance to explain the situation to the international society in a better way. NATO’s remarks following the meeting summoned by Turkey’s request, parallel to the Turkey’s new rules of engagement, has eased Turkey’s situation.

The decision of establishing a new administration, which came out of the meeting in Geneva, has been a step taken on this prospect. However it is not possible to expect the Syrian opposition to come together with the regime as if nothing has happened. Diplomatic efforts would not contribute other than increasing the slaughters by the regime and the resistance capability of the opposition. This means the continuation of the civil war and shedding more Syrian blood.

It is also worth mentioning that during these diplomatic efforts Russia’s pro Asad stance is not anymore an ideological and non flexible one. Russia has started to see how its pro Asad policy has started to cost in the Arab world. Therefore Russia will start to reconsider its position in order to prevent the disruption of its relations with Arab countries. Thus it will not be surprising to see Russia revising its Syrian policy in the near future. We can recall Russia’s voting against Iran, which it defended for a long time, at UN Security Council. At the same session, Turkey had voted for Iran despite the US. It is possible to consider Russia’s defensive performance for Syria as a trump used for increasing its negotiation power for some other cases in Central Asia. It is possible to foresee that Iran’s policy, which is completely based on defending Asad regime, to form a crackdown at the end.

Shortly the international stance for Syria is likely to change soon. Turkey is playing a major role in this change. However the current situation is not Turkey’s choice; it is an inevitable result caused by Asad himself. It is definitely not a wish of the Israel or plan of the Gulf countries wishing to destroy the Asad regime for the benefit of Israel and against Iran as some claim. After all Syria with Asad or under Baath regime both with its strategic relations with Iran or through its support to Hezbollah, never had a tendency or performance to threaten Israel.

Actually this is a different and long issue. Looking at the role played by Syria in Lebanon since 1967, not seeing the harmony of this role with the strategic vision of Israel, we would naively continue to believe the Iran-Hezbollah-Israel tale on this issue.

It is worth mentioning once more that had Asad not preferred to smash down the uprising in a bloody way, one would talk about the public support given by US and Gulf countries to the Syrian opposition. Today the Syrian opposition, whether armed or not, even if not supported from any other source, has won a sociological basis, which will not be possible to resume relations with Asad. Those responsible for this situation should be searched inside Syria, not outside.