Davutoglu: Betting on the Fall of Assad
By: Hüsnü Mahalli
Published Tuesday, August 7, 2012
It now appears that the political future of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu very much depends on the fate of Syria. If the Assad regime falls, then Davutoglu may very well become prime minister. But if the regime survives, Turkey’s top diplomat will be scapegoated and possibly sacked.
Istanbul - Gursel Tekin, the deputy chairman of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), has predicted that the Turkish FM Ahmet Davutoglu will be sacked after implicating Turkey in the Syrian crisis. Tekin added that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is planning to get rid of Davutoglu soon.
For some time now, Davutoglu has been the target of sharp attacks by opposition parties and many media analysts, who blame him for the dismal failure of the Turkish policy in Syria, as he is the one responsible for devising and selling it to the prime minister.
Here, many cite the Turkish stance on Libya, where Erdogan had strongly opposed intervention by NATO and the West, and said that Turkey would not stand for it.
But a week later, the prime minister reversed course, after the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a phone call to Davutoglu, and somehow managed to convince him to stand on Washington’s side in return for “large rewards” for Turkey and the Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Shortly thereafter, Ankara hurriedly set up camps for the Syrian refugees on its border, even before any had fled to Turkey.
Yet the biggest surprise came when Erdogan’s government gave the go-ahead to the Syrian opposition to hold its first conference in the city of Antalya, at the beginning of the uprising.
In fact, the Turkish involvement in Syria started in conjunction with Qatar and Saudi Arabia also entering the fray. Clearly, the Qataris and Saudis had lied to Davutoglu from the outset about the intricacies of the internal situation in Syria and their predictions for the regime’s impending collapse.
But Davutoglu bought these lies all too readily, as he seems to have wagered throughout his statements on President Bashar al-Assad being ousted within a period of three months at most.
The Syrian dissidents who sought refuge in Turkey also contributed to these lies, with Davutoglu seemingly oblivious to the fact that many of them have intimate links with Western capitals, which recruited them for the purpose of getting Turkey involved.
Furthermore, Saudi Arabia and Qatar both played a key role in dragging Turkey into the Syrian crisis, particularly after the two Gulf nations provided large financial assistance to Ankara with a green light from the United States. This put Turkey on the front lines of a future war on Damascus, given the massive border shared between the two countries.
This is not to mention the fact that moving fighters and arms across the Turkish-Syrian border is much easier than doing so through any Arab country, as Turkey is a non-Arab state that once enjoyed a strategic relationship with Syria.
All these developments were sufficient to embroil Turkey further into the Syrian crisis, with all its security-related and political dimensions, not to mention the sectarian and ethnic ones – notably the Kurdish question.
Meanwhile, Cemil Cicek, speaker of the Turkish parliament, was quoted as saying that “the others have pumped us with hot air and then left us alone on the Syrian issue.”
Yet Davutoglu was convinced by Cicek's statement, instead persisting with his hostility toward Syria, despite Western capitals taking a step back from rhetoric, relatively speaking.
Meanwhile, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have distanced themselves from Turkey, sensing that officials there have exposed their lies on the Syrian issue.
This perhaps explains why there has been a lack of communication recently between the emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, on the one hand, and Erdogan, on the other.
Nonetheless, these factors have done little to change Davutoglu's mind. He is convinced and absolutely certain that he is right, despite all the criticism levied at him that suggests he has made gross tactical and strategic miscalculations.
In truth, Ankara lacks experts in Syrian affairs, as well as Arab affairs in general. This may help explain the fact that all analyses of the Syrian situation have been rather skin-deep, and do not go beyond news stories and articles published by the Western media or US and Israeli intelligence reports that are habitually leaked to Turkish journalists.
Most of Ankara’s information about Syria comes from al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya, and the pages of the Syrian opposition on social networking sites.
For example, when Erdogan used the term shabiha (a reference to pro-regime militia in Syria) as conveyed to him by his advisers or perhaps Davutoglu, it did not occur to him that both the Turkish army and security services often use civilian security agents, who are no different to the shabiha, to crack down on peaceful protests.
Furthermore, there are about 100,000 Kurdish village guards in the southeast of Turkey who collaborate with the Turkish army against fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
But the most important question that remains unanswered on the Turkish political and media scene is this: Until when will Erdogan continue to bear the burden of the flawed policy of his foreign minister, which has cost Turkey dearly and at all levels?
Some reports indicate that Davutoglu controls the staff close to Erdogan, and thus, they seem to be unable to level with the Turkish prime minister regarding the realities of the situation in Syria.
Here, it seems that Davutoglu is determined to overthrow the regime in Syria; otherwise, Erdogan will dismiss him and put an end to his diplomatic career, which he wanted to exploit for future political calculations.
Some talk about the possibility that Davutoglu may become the new prime minister of Turkey, when Erdogan becomes the president of the republic in the summer of 2014, provided that Davutoglu proves his diplomatic and political merit by toppling the Syria regime.
After all, the Americans once said that Davutoglu is the Kissinger of the Middle East, with a red Ottoman fez and blue stars.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.