4 October 2012, 21:10

Will Syria face “Turkish gambit”?

Will Syria face “Turkish gambit”?

The latest incident on the Syrian-Turkish border has prompted analysts to wonder whether a military invasion of Syria will take place and who will become an international gendarme.

Although the US, the Assad regime’s arch-foe, has repeatedly signaled NATO’s reluctance to interfere in the Syrian crisis, some experts believe that Washington may implement its own plans by involving other players, including Turkey. Their forecasts may well come true given that on October 4, the Turkish parliament granted the government a mandate to launch military operations in Syria.

NATO acting in circumvention of the UN Charter was not uncommon in previous years, experts say, adding, though, that Washington and EU strategists are not yet ready to fulfill a use-of-force scenario in Syria that they contend may affect the US’ and EU countries’ state coffers and tarnish their political image in the Islam world. At the same time, the Assad regime remains a main irritant for NATO countries, demonstrating the West’s failed attempts to topple Assad.

In this sense, Turkey is seen as an ideal variant for fulfilling a power transfer in Damascus with the help of the use of force. Turkey possesses one of the most powerful armies in NATO, holds a grudge against Bashar Assad and expands its regional clout. NATO will thank Ankara if it shows more determination, some analysts say, singling out a possible expansion of Turkey’s NATO clout and the alliance granting a spate of economic preferences to Turkey. At all events, Turkish authorities make it plain that their patience is running out and that they will act bypassing NATO, believes Oya Akgyonench, an Ankara-based political analyst.

"Turkey is hardly interested in involving NATO forces in the current situation because this is all but certain to further fuel tensions, something that Akgyonench says is opposed both by the Turkish people and the Turkish government. We are unwilling to resort to the 4th or the 5th clause of the North Atlantic Treaty, and we don’t want NATO’s arrival. The problem should be resolved with the help of such regional international structures as the Arab League," he concludes.

Meanwhile, Ankara has declared that any decisions by the international community concerning Syria should be endorsed by the UN Security Council. Most analysts, however, question the sincerity of these words given Turkey actively supporting the armed opposition and the deployment of Turkish troops near the Turkish-Syrian border. Yevgeny Satanovsky, head of the Moscow-based Middle East Institute, says that Ankara sees Syria as a zone of its own interests and a “Turkish province, annexed by rebellious Arab rulers”. Supported by Baghdad, Syria is seen by some analysts as a venue where a crucial strife between Turkey and Iran is taking place amid their efforts to enhance their regional clout. It is something that Western political elites stake on, experts say.

Assad’s foes Qatar and Saudi Arabia have, meanwhile, stressed the necessity of meddling in the Syrian crisis, a drive that analysts say may be supported by Washington. Speaking at a recent session of the Un General Assembly in New York, the Emir of Qatar openly called for resorting to the use of force as far as Syria is concerned.

In any case, Ankara is yet to make a final decision on the matter. As for the parliament’s mandate, it should not be perceived as a document that gives a go-ahead for the war, according to Ankara. Analysts warn, however, that all this may finally prove another political move.

Many Turks demanded that their country should respond in kind after a Turkish warplane was shot down by Syrian forces in June 2012. Others, including opposition activists, warned against the use of force that they said was fraught with a split in society and a full-blown political crisis in Turkey.

Fishing in troubled waters is not unusual for NATO leaders who know full well that a possible intervention against Syria may lead to the West’s new Cold War with Russia and China. As for Turkey, it may well “maintain order” on the neighboring territory under the aegis of ensuring security of its own citizens and “peaceful Syrians.” What’s more, Syria is entitled to act on its own without reaching a consensus with NATO countries if it faces a necessity of protecting NATO countries and their partners. NATO documents describe this as an “active participation in the settlement of a crisis, including operations on reaction to the crisis”. The NATO Council said on Thursday that an incident on the Syrian-Turkish border threatens the security of the entire alliance.

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