Turkey: Running its Own Gauntlet

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A Syrian refugee boy cries as he attends the funeral of five Free Syrian Army fighters killed by Syrian security forces near Syria's Idlib province, in Yayladagi in Hatay province near the Turkish-Syrian border, 4 August, 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Umit Bektas)

By: Hüsnü Mahalli

Published Thursday, August 9, 2012

Turkey has burnt all its bridges with its neighbors – Iran, Iraq, and Syria – in a bid to ride the wave of the Arab Spring. Now, Ankara fears that Kurdish separatists will come to power if Assad’s regime collapses in Syria.

Istanbul - From the onset of events in Syria, Ankara has displayed relative caution in its relationship with Tehran. But now that the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has joined a “Sunni front” with Arab Gulf countries, Ankara is being more direct with its Shia neighbor.

Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Hassan Firouzabadi recently blamed Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia for the bloodshed in Syria.

The Turkish government instantly jumped to respond to Firouzabadi’s accusations, and at the same time to remarks made earlier by senior Iranian envoy and chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili while on a visit to Damascus.

First came a declaration from Erdogan, followed by a more explicit position from his Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The latter accused Iran of complicity in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s slaughter of the Syrian people.

He said his government “has not and will never support Iran’s policies in Syria,” adding that Ankara did not approve of statements made by Iranian officials. He described the serious differences in perspectives between Iran and Turkey on Syria.

These rapid developments came swiftly after violent clashes in the Hakkari province in southeast Turkey between hundreds of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters and the Turkish military. The area was declared a no-go zone, even for the media and members of parliament.

The Turkish government accused Syria and Iran of supporting the PKK, although it is widely known that most of the fighters had come in from northern Iraq.

Nevertheless, Turkish officials avoided publicly blaming President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani.

Ankara has high hopes for Barzani in its plans to get rid of the “Shia” government of Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad, and thus control the situation in the Kurdish regions of north and northeast Syria in case of further deterioration.

Turkish intelligence sources have raised the possibility that the PKK could take control of Kurdish areas in Syria and declare a federal Kurdish entity.

The key to the Turkish-Iranian crisis, however, remains Ankara’s role in Syria. This will continue to impact the region overall, with Turkey joining the “anti-Syrian” camp, while Iran, the Maliki government, and Lebanon, to an extent, standing behind Damascus.

But it is well known that the situation in Syria would not have reached this point if it was not for Turkey’s political and military support of the Syrian opposition.

This support came not long after Syria was on the verge of forming an economic union with Turkey at the end of 2010.

Turkish-Iraqi relations follow a similar pattern. In 2009, the two countries signed a strategic cooperation agreement, strengthening Turkey’s relations with both Syria and Iran on all levels.

The region could have witnessed a historic ethnic and sectarian victory, with the “Alawi” Assad succeeding in building and developing a strategic relationship with the Sunni Erdogan.

This ideological almost-victory had some impact on the ground. Visas between Turkey and Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Libya were waived, leading to political, economic, social, and psychological breakthroughs in the region in general.

Undoubtedly this made some countries in the Gulf uncomfortable, but the alliance did initially have the support of Qatar’s emir, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

It later turned out that he was playing it smart, building relations with Assad and the Iranian leadership, and there was also al-Jazeera’s support for the resistance in Lebanon.

But Ankara did not hesitate to sacrifice all these successes. It agreed with Washington on a new role in the region through the “Arab Spring,” and promptly retracted its position against foreign intervention in Libya.

Turkey calculated that it would stand to gain a lot by allying itself with Washington, particularly as the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) was expected to rise to power in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. But this did not play out.

In Libya, liberals won the elections and the Tunisian al-Nahda had to enter a coalition with liberal and secular parties. Then, the Syrian “Sunni” opposition failed to topple Assad’s regime.

This led many observers to wonder about the future of Turkey’s relations with Syria, Iraq and Iran, especially if Assad remains in power. Not to mention that Erdogan already faces considerable trouble with the PKK and its extensions in Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Also, it is clear that if the battles in Syria escalate into an all-out sectarian war between Sunnis and Alawis, Turkey will be the first country to be affected. Around 3 million Alawis with relatives in Syria live along the borders in Antakya, Mersin and Adana.

But the greatest danger for Turkey is what will become of the Kurdish areas in northern Syria if Assad were to fall. The PKK may very well declare autonomy or a federal entity there.

This is seen by Ankara as a strategic threat to all its calculations. It could be one of the greatest dangers that the Turkish Republic has faced since its creation in 1923.

Countries across the region will also find themselves facing nationalist, ethnic, sectarian, and religious challenges due to the Syrian situation.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


Syria has now slipped into fully chaos situation. and this what always happen, when a country is tried to be captured by the military or the militants. Both will just destroy the place and distresses the law and order of that place. It is sad to think about the people who are the real sufferers.

I am surprized to read how prejudiced some people are.and how ignorant some ppl are.First of all Turks does not need the history of Arabs or Kurds.Turkish culture is older than 220 BC and Kurdish culture does not have even a proper alphabet.What did the kurdish culture give to the humanity?Give me one sample out of Kurds a scientist a phylosopher ?a proudly leader or a masterpiece?None of them!And I cannot stop thinking if God did not gave gas or petrolium to the Arabs what would they look like today.
All of you guys have to know.Today 26 million ppl speaks kurdish; 280 million ppl speaks Arabic;320 million ppl speaks Turkish!
Modern-Day Countries of which some of their territory was controlled by the Ottoman Empire:
Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates
FYRO Macedonia
Bosnia & Herzegovina

Ottoman Empired ruled the 4 continents for 600 hundred years.Which stupid person can claim we are thieves of history?So shut the f up we dont need your history full of betrayals.Read history and than talk! http://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%84%D8%A9_%D8%A7...
We never evaluate or general'ze ppl w'th their religion or nationalty this the secret of ruling the world for 6 hundred years But as you attacked I have to answer like you do i am sorry but Those Arabs unifiying with UK in WW2 betraied Turkish Republic.Plus dont forget that The leader of the PKK ,the kurdish terrorists Ocalan bastard was captured in Syria! 15/02/1999
Also Watch this video to learn Sumerians were Turkish http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_dNi8pVxmA

Personally I dont support Mr Erdogan as he is not even %1 of Mosthapha Kemal Ataturk the leader of the last 100 years founder of our Republic who gave rigth to the Turkish Women to be elagated and part of parliment before even today s Europen countries

The lasts but not the least every single Turkish citizen believes from the bottom of the heart the motto of M K Ataturk `Peace in homeland peace in the rest of the World!`
Finally our nation s name is mentioned in Koran in at tabarah as
The reference in the hadith to “Allah will fill your palms with the Turks” indicates that “the Turks will be a great force” against atheist zionists and masons in the End Times. The reference to “Allah will make lions of them” reveals that the Turks will be noted for their courage and activity in this period and that they will show this to the whole world with their courageous speech. It appears from the information provided in the hadith that the Turks will be like lions in the End Times and will wage a highly effective intellectual struggle against all heretical elements of the time, such as atheist zionists and masons.

It is a true shame that Turkey wasted a golden opportunity to create history by trancending sectarianism and ethnicty and creating a strong economic block withiraq syria and iran as well as lebanon they will now reap what they sowed sectarian and ethnic fighting that will ser the region back a hundred years sch a shame

Excellent coverage of the Turkish situation two days in a row. From yesterday's article on the Foreign Minister and today;s piece, it seems clear that there may be a chance that Assad stays in power and that Turkey is paying a heavy price for the role it is playing. It seems forbidden in the rest of the press to even consider the survival of Assad. Erdogan will blame the Foreign Minister, as you suggest, and express shock. Unfortunately, for him, he has blown a golden opportunity in the Middle East and will face the loss of leadership for his party. How will he explain away the joint operation at Adana and all the other acts of aggression? Now well, I suspect.

this article expresses a cowardly outlook at life. an action always involves unexpected outcomes. that is history being written . it does not get written by someone who sits and worries and at the end of the day has done nothing.

Good point to mention the agreement between Turkey on the one side and Syria, Iran and Iraq on the other side. Zero problem with neighbours by Erdogan. People forgets that Syria and Iran engaged in fighting against the PKK and PJAK in the past. Assad regime executed and handed or imprisoned a lot of PYD and PKK activist in Syria to comply with Adana agreement. All was very fine and nice for Turkey until the Syrian uprising came and the Syrian people wanted to have democratic country.

Let the Syrian people remember Turkey's dirty games of the past and not to get into the Turkish trap by creating split among Syrian people ( Arab and Kurd)

ARABS and KURDS are so close relatives than Turks! turks came to this region after 1040 , while we have been here for thousands of years togetherrrr!

and Turks cannot break this ties !

being a regular business visitor to Turkey from Europe I could see this coming
As Turks were MORE pro Zionist and looked at others as inferirior people!

Exalcty what you re saying! Turks >>>> History-Culture-Tradition thieves ! they don't EVEN want a Strong single Syria or single Strong Iraq , Yet single ARAB-KURD country with more than 30 MILLIONs of (mostly kurds) Arabs-Kurds in Turkey! in hars asimilation policy of fascist turkey state , as you said , they think they have superioty over Arabs and Kurds ! We will see !

Another Lidia?!

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