Bleak warning from Turkish president on Syria's fate

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Article Summary
As plans stall for the Geneva II conference tentatively scheduled for later this month, Turkish President Abdullah Gul has adopted a cautionary tone while radicalism in the region continues to rise.

President Abdullah Gul, in a recent interview with The Guardian, said he did not think anyone would tolerate an Afghanistan-like situation developing on the shores of the Mediterranean and warned all countries — above all Europe — of the dangers of radical movements.

Afghanistan has been a human tragedy for half a century. Because of misguided policies, the country became a source of problems not only for its neighbors but for the entire world. It is likely to be abandoned to its fate once again. Although President’s Gul’s Afghanistan analogy applies everywhere, it is more crucial for Turkey.

Today, while Syria is becoming a global issue, Turkey is a multi-faceted target. First, there are the radical groups affiliated with al-Qaeda. Second are the sectarian and ethnic clashes with dimensions that go beyond borders. Third are the security, social and economic risks arising from the collapse of central authority.

Turkey’s geopolitical position offers attractive opportunities that the radical groups cannot ignore. We are talking of long borders with heavy human traffic that are difficult to supervise. All key arteries to reach Europe, Russia and other targets pass through Turkey. Moreover, there are ample targets in Turkey itself that would satisfy the action plans of radical groups. They have easy access to ideological and cultural networks from all sides. They have amassed enough weapons and ammunition to last for years. They have gained impressive field experience. Naturally, they will look for places to put these assets to use.

The most vital element of deterring radical movements is global and regional cooperation. But, led by Syria, central authorities of the region have lost their former effectiveness and strength. They will not be able to recover their capacity to provide security. With more than 6,000 people killed in one year and hundreds of bombs going off, can one talk of Iraq’s contribution to regional security? Can we expect non-state actors who are combating central governments for sovereignty to provide security for the region?

The new Middle East policies of the United States and efforts of European countries to distance themselves from Syria are signs of the approaching dangers. The lack of interest in the Geneva II conference is one such indication. Unfortunately, despite the warnings by President Gul, a new Afghanistan is emerging on the shores of the Mediterranean.

We hope at least Turkey will get the message that the West tries to ignore, and our officials will come up with a hybrid strategy to deal with the complex questions arising from Syria. This is a long-term issue, and Turkey may be left to its own devices.

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Found in: turkey terrorism, turkey-syrian border, terrorism, syrian-turkish relations, afghanistan, abdullah gul
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