It is clear that Bashar al-Assad will not leave office of his own volition, and that he will not support the peaceful measures which would pave the way for the democratization of Syria.
Obviously, Ankara has lost all hope for a peaceful resolution. Ankara’s call to Turks to leave Syria could be a signal that the clashes in Syria are likely to escalate and that probability of external intervention is increasing.
When the Arab Spring got off the ground, the regimes in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia were rapidly overthrown. Libya did not have a regular army. Once NATO intervened, Qaddafi’s weak army disintegrated swiftly. It turned out that Qaddafi’s empty threats had no basis whatsoever.
Egypt was well equipped with a strong and regular army. However, the Egyptian army abandoned Mubarak, triggering his fall. Later on, the military imposed its own rule on the Egyptian political scene.
The case of Syria is different. Although there are defections from the Syrian army, it is still impossible to predict the wide disintegration we saw in Libya. Assad still has control over his armed forces. Assad’s army continues to bomb its own people. It carries on besieging rebellious cities and a general crackdown.
The Assad regime gets its strength from the backing of Iran, Russia and China, and it is clear that the civil strife gripping Syria will worsen with the collapse of the Syrian army and waning Russian and Chinese support.
Syria is rapidly heading toward ethnic and sectarian war, one that Turkey should be certain to avoid. This is not Turkey’s war. Turkey has no national interest in leading a military intervention on behalf of the West. Such involvement will become a source of hostility with our neighbors that will last years.
Ankara must become aware of attempts to export a potential Syrian civil war to Turkey. If friendship and brotherhood matters to Ankara, then it should confine its involvement merely to humanitarian assistance. Turkey should provide shelter for the refugees and supply humanitarian aid. Turkey should only be involved in a cross-border operation if it receives UN authorization, and if that happens, only to deliver aid.
Turkey has a sociological structure similar to that in Syria. Even if Ankara isn’t actually considering involving itself in a military operation, it must keep in mind that there are those who would be eager to spread the fire to our side of the border. We should develop policies in accordance with Ataturk’s motto: “peace at home, peace with the world.”