Last week, a momentous development on Syria, which directly concerns Turkey, was totally ignored by our mainstream media — with one or two exceptions — or treated as a piece of routine news not linked to the Syrian context.
This critical development, spelled out by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was about the Qatar meeting about Syria.
In short, this is what happened: The US openly declared that the Syrian National Council [SNC], which was established in Istanbul in August 2011 under the auspices and coordination of Turkey, cannot represent the Syrian opposition. Now, hundreds of representatives from fragmented Syrian opposition groups are getting together in Doha to discuss setting up a new leadership structure to replace the SNC.
For the sake of appearance, the meeting is under the auspices of the Arab League. But The New York Times on Oct. 31 reported Clinton telling reporters accompanying her that she was effectively involved in selection of organizations and individuals attending the meeting.
The New York Times report continued with these important lines: “The Obama administration has been exasperated for months with the anemic leadership and constant bickering of the council, which is often far more caught up in fighting over spots on travel delegations than in creating an effective transitional government. It failed to attract significant representation from minority groups, including the Alawites who dominate Syria as well as the Christians or the Kurds. Its obscure academics and long-exiled activists also seem increasingly irrelevant in a civil war in which extremist jihadis are gaining more visibility.”
The following comments by Clinton quoted by The New York Times clearly explain why the US decided to close the book on the SNC: “There needs to be an opposition leadership structure that is dedicated to representing and protecting all Syrians. And we also need an opposition that will be on record strongly resisting the efforts by extremists to hijack the Syrian revolution.”
That is another way of saying the SNC had none of these characteristics.
Now, let’s come to the crucial point. Clinton’s remarks and the Qatar meeting to come up with an effective leadership to represent the opposition both have a significant implications for Ankara’s Syria policy.
Washington has declared the [Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet] Davutoglu-patented SNC null and void. Since it is Washington that declared the demise of SNC, the US has also attested in addition to the dominant Alawites and the bitter fiasco of the [ruling Turkish] Justice and Development Party [AKP]’s Syria policy.
Sadly, Turkey has lost the opportunity of being the lead actor in Syria through its extreme, wishful and misguided foreign policy.
If the Baath regime preserves its existence for couple of years — and this is likely — Turkey’s primary concern will be to deal with the disastrous consequences of its grave mistakes in Syria.