Unless there is a direct and blatant military attack from Syria, Turkey must resist sending its army to that country no matter the provocation.
There is no compulsion for Turkey to intervene in its southern neighbor’s affairs or to participate in such an intervention, but there are at least ten reasons why Turkish soldiers should stay away:
- At the moment no capital in the world, including Ankara, can come up with a strategy for entering Syria, let alone exiting it. No capital has a feasible or rational plan for Syria. A consistent, organized opposition that inspires regional and global confidence has yet to appear.
- To send soldiers to Syria without an exit strategy and to create a buffer zone that only protects the Sunnis from massacres will result in nothing but a “Lebanonization” of the country — that is, fragmenting the country along religious, sectarian and ethnic lines. Moreover, no one knows how the boundary of the buffer zone would be drawn.
- The Turkish Armed Forces’ weapons and equipment lack the quantity and quality needed to carry out such an asymmetric intervention with minimal civilian losses.
- Turkey’s energy sources are dependent on Syria’s strategic allies Russia and Iran. Who can guarantee that natural gas supplies won’t be used as a weapon against Turkey if it intervenes in Syria?
- The Kurdish issue is Turkey’s “Achilles’ heel,” its open wound. We are hearing reliable reports that in response to Turkey’s support of the opposition, the Baath regime has begun covertly assisting the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).
- Sending troops to Syria may put Ankara at risk of internationalizing the Kurdish issue.
- War needs money. Such a war would be a heavy burden on the Turkish budget. To intervene in the spring means, if nothing else, the end of the tourism season before it even begins. Don’t forget that the PKK also threatens Turkish tourism.
- The ruling political elite has polarized Turkey. It would be impossible for a public opinion that is divided along Kurd-Turk, secular-Islamist, Alawite-Sunni lines to display a unified, supportive attitude for a war.
- With the coming of spring, a potential Israeli attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities becomes more likely. If this occurs parallel to a Turkish intervention in Syria, the portrait of a “Turkey/Israel vs. Iran/Syria” is likely to irritate the anti-Israeli AKP ruling elite.
- Turkey says that all options for Syria are on the table, and that it finds regional intervention to be more reasonable. Turkey is from the region, but it is not Arab. Even if the objective is to save Sunni brothers, Sunni capitals will react negatively to Ottoman-heir Turkey’s entry into Arab Syria, and this will create suspicion that Ankara has neo-Ottomanist designs for the region.