What are the Turks afraid of?
Turkey is Syria’s largest neighbor, with some influence inside Syria itself, particularly in the eastern region. It now appears that the Turks have some legitimacy to intervene to defend their national interests and sovereignty, which has been violated on numerous occasions by al-Assad regime forces. We must not forget that what is happening in Syria threatens Turkey’s national security, whether the al-Assad regime survives or is toppled. For Ankara fears the return of the separatist Kurds, after Turkey had been able to crush this movement, particularly as more than 40,000 have been killed in previous guerilla wars between Turkey and Kurdish separatists. Turkey also fears terrorist groups who may seek to fill the vacuum left by the ouster of the al-Assad regime, whilst as the same time there are fears that should the Syrian regime manage to survive; it will seek to conspire against Turkey in retaliation.
When the Syrian Air Defenses shot down the Turkish military warplane on Friday, it was expected that Turkey would respond militarily, particularly as it warned the Syrian regime that it would not remain silent to the escalating attacks carried out by Syrian forces across the Turkish borders, however Turkey’s response has disenchanted many. The Turks have already disappointed many, after they pledged they would not stand idly by whilst the Syrian people were being killed. Turkey is a major country and possess military capabilities that would allow it to be victorious in any military confrontation, and would find itself welcomed by the majority of the Syrian people as a savior from a criminal regime that is killing dozens of unarmed people on a daily basis. What is preventing Turkey being like the US, when it rescued France from Nazi occupation, or for the Syrians to do what America and Saudi Arabia did with regards to driving out Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait? Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan can play the role that was played by former US president Bill Clinton, with regards to saving Bosnia, Herzegovina and Kosovo.
The Turks are suggesting that they are prepared to intervene to stop the massacres and rein in the al-Assad regime; however it seems that they are also afraid. But what are they afraid of, when they possess the military capability to easily beat the al-Assad regime, particularly as the Syrian forces are exhausted and unpopular, or as former Cyprus Prime Minister said – upon being asked about the arming issue – there is no benefit in going back now, particularly as Turkey has a huge military capability that would allow them to defeat us in a matter of hours.
The Turks carried out their last unilateral military action in August 1974 against the Greek-Cypriots and won quickly, and I believe that the Turks do not want to be part of war except under an international flag. However this is impossible thanks to the Russian and Chinese veto. Nor do the Turks want to involve NATO, along the lines of the Libyan scenario; however it seems that the NATO forces are equally reluctant to get involved with the battle against al-Assad.
The Turks prefer to be part of an international mission, for Turkey is an important member of NATO, and after the US, contributes the most troops to this organizations, approximately 750,000.
So why are the Turks so reluctant to get involved in a conflict with the al-Assad regime, despite all its provocations, and their embarrassment in front of regional public opinion?
Perhaps this is because the Turks are hoping one of two things will take place: either for the al-Assad regime to be toppled by the revolution that is wearing it down, or for the international community to have enough from his crimes and reach an agreement against him…at this point Turkey would be at the spearhead and enter Damascus under an international flag. However the second possibility is unlikely due to the Russian position which is completely biased towards the Syrian regime. Turkey’s fears are well-known; domestically, it fears that its war in Syria would open new fronts at home with Kurdish and Armenian opposition separatist movements, or that Iran would open a front with it. However these are justifications and excuses because Turkey is militarily and economically stronger than Iran, and it would be backed by NATO, whilst the Syrian regime is reeling, no matter how steadfast its leader is trying to appear.
In my opinion, Turkey, which has remained silent to al-Assad’s insults, will reach a stage where it will have no choice but to intervene in order to defend its interests, the difference is if it intervenes now, it will receive huge popular and material support from the Arabs and others who hate the crimes being committed by the al-Assad regime.