Turkey Should not be Party to Gulf Hypocrisy over Syrian Crisis

Article Summary
Despite all the lipservice being paid to “democratic transition” in Syria, there is very little evidence that efforts to unseat the Assad regime have much to do with democracy, argues Nuray Mert. Be it the armed Syrian resistance or the monarchies of the Gulf, proponents of intervention in Syria have little democratic legitimacy - and Turkey should avoid engagement with such partners, she warns.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu delivered a speech at a UN conference titled “Reform and Transitions to Democracy” in Beirut. During the meeting it is reported that Davutoglu offered his views on an amnesty issued in Syria, but dismissed the measure as “a tired move with many precedents.” There may be plenty of reasons to keep a wary eye on the policies of the Assad regime. However, it is not possible to expect a genuine democratization in Syria, which is facing the threat of international intervention.

To be frank, what is at stake here is not the democratization of Syria.

Under present circumstances, who is going to democratize Syria? The Syrian National Council, whose constituency is unknown, and that cannot even come to terms with opposition groups within Syria? The armed opposition, sponsored by who knows who? The calls from Arab emirates - especially Qatar - as if they don’t have any “democracy issues” of their own to address?

In his speech at the conference, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon demanded Syrian President Assad stop the continued killing of his people, stating that the “old order” of a one-man dictatorships and family dynasties were over in the Middle East. However this statement is far from the truth, since the Arab world is still dominated by one-man dictators and family dynasties. Allies of the Western world such as Morocco, Oman, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are still governed by monarchies. These monarchies are not symbolic like the ones in Europe; they are full-bown dynasties. The one-man dictatorships in Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya were ousted, but the future of these countries remains unknown. Now it is time for Algeria and Syria, and Syria is the primary target. Let us not talk about Lebanon, since it is a long and complicated story.

We know that elements of the Syrian armed opposition are in Lebanon. This Sunday, Al-Jazeera aired an interview conducted with a group that has supposedly defected from the Syrian army and is based in Lebanon. During the interview, the group mentioned their connection with southern Turkey.

Meanwhile, the biggest concern of Turkey is to control the region’s Kurds. Turkey’s most popular daily, Hurriyet, reported the conference held in Beirut with the headline “A Regional Coalition Against the Kurdish Card.” In fact, nobody is using the Kurdish card against us, as is portrayed in the Turkish press. The Turkish press has long been trying to associate the PKK with Iran and Syria, and yet both these regimes are extremely cautious about this issue. Ten days ago I went to Syria, where the representatives of the regime reiterated that “if the Syrian regime will collapse, Turkey will be next.” This is the strategy employed by the Syrian regime to persuade Turkey.

Let’s take a look at the process pioneered by the West and dubbed “the struggle for democracy in the Middle East.” It is supposed to be a coalition against one-man dictatorships, dynasties and autocracies, but the members of the coalition are states governed by anti-democratic regimes. Nobody condemns Turkey’s harsh policies on its internal Kurdish issue, but the armed opposition in Syria is considered a “legitimate [political] opposition.” Assad’s call for the opposition to disarm is ignored.

In conclusion, no one should expect the spread of democracy or peace to emerge from this hypocritical international environment. On the contrary, there will be a large and painful price to pay for the people living in this turbulent region. There is no credible policy initiative for peace and democracy from this coalition of one-man rulers and dynasties. We should not get on this train hurtling towards war. A strange country such as Qatar - with a population of at most 300,000, that throws money at all of its problems and that pretends to have “no problems” with things like democracy and human rights - can afford to lead the anti-Iran campaign. But we should not be a partner to their crimes.

Found in: turkey’s middle east policy, syrian opposition, syrian national council, syrian free army, syrian crisis, syrian, gulf intervention in the syrian crisis, gulf, foreign intervention, democratization in the middle east, democratization, ban ki-moon, assad regime, assad

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