Saturday, October 29, 2011

'Turkey is Playing with Fire!'

"The emergence under Turkish protection of the Free Syrian Army raises again the question of whether the protesters against President Bashar al Assad should turn to violence.
Turkey has welcomed Syrian refugees for months.  There is certainly nothing wrong with that:  it is in fact an obligation (non-refoulement) to do so if the Syrians have a well-founded fear of persecution, which under the circumstances is evident.  Disappointed in Bashar’s refusal to listen to their advice or respond to pressure in favor of reform, the Turks have not however yet done much to block investment in Syria or otherwise signal their displeasure with more than words.  Now, rather suddenly, a Foreign Ministry official appears with a Syrian colonel who announces to the world that the Free Syrian Army has already attacked Assad’s forces inside Syria and needs better weapons in order to continue the effort.
This looks to me like a puzzle with missing pieces.  Have the Syrians been allowing Kurds to attack inside Turkey?  I can’t find indication of that in the press, but it would not be surprising, and might well prompt a response in kind.  Or are the Turks just using the means at their disposal?  Will Syria also respond in kind, raiding Syrian refugee camps across the border inside Turkey?  Or, if they haven’t already, allowing Kurds to attack Turkish forces?
Whatever is going on, it is dangerous.  The protesters’ umbrella group, the Syrian National Council, has so far opted not to use violence.  The emergence of a separate group prepared to do so from outside the country puts peaceful protesters at even greater risk than they have been so far, and hurts the prospects for maintaining their unity.
The Americans have appeared to be urging the protesters to stick with nonviolence, knowing full well that third party armed intervention like that in Libya is not in the cards.  The Turks are of course capable of their own initiatives, but I can’t help but wonder whether Washington has been in touch with Ankara about the Free Syrian Army.  Did the Americans oppose letting it raid inside Syria from Turkey, or did they turn a blind eye?
Whatever, as my kids say.  None of this is good.  Violence–however justified on moral grounds–is going to make it harder for the protesters to win over minorities in Syria and opens the real possibility of ethnic and sectarian warfare that will spill over Syria’s borders into Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Lebanon.  That could become a truly serious mess that all concerned would regret.  It is time to ask the Turks to keep the Free Syrian Army inside Turkey and to stop playing with fire.  If they want to do something, some stiff restrictions on Turkish business with Syria would help."


Daniel Serwer said...

Posting this material without attribution to, with a link, is a violation of the Creative Commons license.

G, M, Z, or B said...

Anon; I suspect a 'savvy' reader like you knows how to CLICK on the title!!!!!!