Who is Turkey to 'Help' Syria?

Article Summary
As the US and the international community fail to provide leadership on the Syrian issue, Turkey is left to pick up the pieces, writes Cengiz Candar. But is it in any position to do so? Can Turkey really lecture its neighbors on democracy and peace with its own democracy in regression and while it tolerates massacres on its own lands?

As the weaknesses in US leadership permeate the international system, the Syrian people have been left to solve their own problems. After Turkey followed the lead of some Western countries and expelled Syrian diplomats, Foreign Minister Davutoglu declared, “We have to try everything we can, and exhaust all possibilities.” Do we conclude from his statement that there is an inevitable war with Syria in the horizon, or as others have put it, a Turkish military intervention in Syria?

We find the answer to this question in other remarks that Davutoglu has made: “What is important for us is to avoid spreading more chaos that would increase the risks to our security. In the past, the Syrian government was an element of stability that did not fight its people. Now, their government has become a source of instability. If there is a security risk, we will take all necessary measures within the confines of international law, but the international community has to adopt a unified approach as soon as possible.” He also said, “We are aware of the costs of ignoring massacres, such as what happened in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The UN has to take a firm and clear position to prevent a civil war.”

So what are we to take away from this? Turkey will not act unilaterally against Syria. Every step that Turkey takes will have to be under an international umbrella which, in turn, requires the UN and the international community to take a new approach.

Taking the risk

Such a new and robust international approach is possible only if the sole global superpower takes the lead, but one of the basic features of Obama’s America is his stance in the Middle East. Never mind if he has the power to lead or not; rather, it is doubtful that he wants to.

The New York Times revealed that senior US officials meet weekly to discuss Syria, though the options on the table remain more or less the same. Their last hope is for Putin to force Assad to give up power, the newspaper said.

This is basically an acknowledgement of not knowing what to do, not being able to make decisions, and avoiding what can be done.

Weak leadership

The US leadership’s weakness has permeated the entire international system, leaving the Syrian people to solve their own problems. Naturally, this means watching the Syrian blood bath continue without knowing which way it is going or how it will end. Restraints imposed by the USA, UN and the international community surely limit Turkey’s possible actions, but even if there were no such restraints, our self-imposed shackles would not allow us to make any meaningful moves in the Syrian crisis.

When a government makes a mess like the Uludere massacre — which took place on its own soil — how can anyone take its fury over the Houla massacre in Syria seriously?

As we observe the symptoms of a sectarian war developing in Syria (Alawites represent nearly 20% of the population there [sic] — can Turkey, who cannot cope with its own Alawite problem, claim to be non-sectarian in its approach to the Syrian issue?

Will we be able to win the sympathy of Syrian Kurds, who make up 10% of the Syrian population, and encourage them to join the Syrian opposition when they see our attitude toward our own Kurdish issue, and the language and style we use?

Let’s just say, hypothetically, that after trying every avenue and exhausting all possibilities, Turkey makes a unilateral decision to militarily intervene in Syria. What will its objective be? To topple the regime and to save the Syrian people from a brutal government that is also causing instability in Turkey? Let’s say we succeed; then what? How will the deposed regime be replaced? Will the Syrian people follow us when our own internal squabbles are on display for them to see?

Not to worry. Nothing of the sort will happen. We are not going to war. What we should really think about is how the defects in our own domestic sphere will deprive the suffering Syrians of any effective support we can give them.

The other day, Soli Ozel wrote for the Haberturk newspaper that “It is not plausible for a country whose own politics and democracy are in regression to try to legitimize its foreign policy by promoting itself as defender of democracy.” The title of this article was, “Absence of foreign policy in the Syrian mirror.” Enough said — I rest my case.

Found in: uludere massacre, houla massacre, turkish kurds, turkish alawites, turkey’s syria policy, ahmet davutoglu, uludere

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