Sunday, June 19, 2011

Turkey toughens its stand on Syria

No sooner than the Turkish parliamentary elections were out of the way, a more robust intervention by the reelected leadership of Recep Erdogan in Ankara in Syrian upheaval has begun. Turkish press has been highlighting a steady flow of Syrian 'refugees' across the border - obviously, building up a case for intervention. For the first time, Turkish government is encouraging journalists to meet the refugees in the 5 camps (less than 10000) set up in the border region. An orchestrated campaign has begun to mould the public opinion against the Syrian regime.

The Turkish officials have noticeably racheted up anti-Syrian rhetoric, including the top leadership in Ankara. Turkey claims it is going to deliver humanitarian aid to displaced people inside Syrian territory and that Damascus has been consulted. No confirmation from Damascus so far, though. A demonstration in front of the Turkish embassy in Damascus last week protesting against Turkish interference has been widely projected in the Turkish media as a hostile act. Turkish nationalist feelings would be aroused.

On Sunday, a Turkish military helicopter crossed into Syria on a reconnaissance mission. The Turkish TV speculated on the possibility that Ankara will create a 'buffer zone' in the border region on Syrian territory for providing shelter to displaced people rather than accept them as 'refugees'. Damascus has alleged that weapons are being smuggled into northern Syria, hotbed of current violence, from Turkey. Interestingly, Iranian media have picked up the Syrian allegation. Meanwhile, Turkish PM Recep Erdogan is planning to visit Cairo and has had consultations with Qatari emir who is, paradoxically, a charioter of the Arab Spring in Libya and Syria although a dictator himself.The heightened level of Turkish diplomatic activism has to be on the basis of some foreknowledge of US strategies in the coming period.


Johan said...

Could one among the factors behind the Turkish turnabout on Syria even be the Kurdish issue?

Kurds inhabit significant contiguous swats of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran - the territory referred to as Kurdistan - and claim well over thirty percent of the total population of Turkey alone. This in itself is a big thorn in the Kemal pasha’s “pure” state’s side, not even to mention the PKK-led armed struggle of the past decades.

Could the reported Turkish blockade of migration from Syria be there primarily to prevent an influx of Kurds (a ten percentile minority in Syria)? Recent years have witnessed Turkish military incursions into Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkish-Iranian collaboration on the Kurdish issue, and so on.

JadedCynic said...

Johan has a good point about the Kurdish dimension to Turkey's stance on Syria. I think the US position vis-a-vis Syria and Iran are more operative here though. Your point on the consultations between Ankara and Washington, DC seem logical; Turkey seems to me to be moving back into it's traditional Eurocentric orientation, and stepping away from it's bid to rejuvenate the Ottoman Caliphate in modern times. I would pay careful attention to Turkey's position on Palestinian movement toward a declaration of statehood in September. If they are silent or even mutedly supportive, I would read that as a partial payment to Israel and America for past misdeeds and as a signal to America and the West that they're back on the team, so to speak. My compliments on your work; I often disagree with your conclusions, but I value the supporting information that drives the positions you take.

Anoosh said...

@JadedCynic-Turkey has decided to champion the "cause" of the Palestinian Statehood. (
The New Meddle East is forming and Iran, Turkey, Syria, and later the AfPak make up the core of an emerging central Asiaian state-market blcok. With the EU in shambles the world needs a new set of the "Asian Tigers" to save the West's bacon.