Syria: What next?
It is time for a new assessment on Syria. Bashar al-Assad made it clear that he is not going to listen to diplomatic advice no matter where it is coming from.
ARAB CRISIS BY SUAT KINIKLIOğLU
Following Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s visit to Damascus Assad made some small gestures, namely, partially withdrawing tanks from Hama and allowing a group of journalists to visit the city -- but essentially he has not changed his main course of action. Indeed, he stated openly to our foreign minister that he will “continue to pursue terrorist elements throughout the country.” We have a small problem with agreeing on terminology here. What he calls terrorists we see as the Syrian people, most of whom are Sunni Muslims. So what next? The answer lies in Davutoğlu’s press statement on Tuesday that soon there would be nothing left to talk about. Davutoğlu’s statement marks a critical milestone and has been duly noted in relevant capitals around the world. After having exhausted all available diplomatic means we are now entering a new stage where Turkey will use other means to bring about a change of behavior in Syria. Although it was clear that even before Davutoğlu’s visit that Assad would not listen to anyone, it was nevertheless a last-ditch effort that had to be made. We need to be able to have moral legitimacy in case things move onto a more complicated phase. I am of the view that if the current bloodshed continues the next step should be Ankara openly calling for Assad to go. This would deal a remarkable blow to the Baathist regime and probably would be coupled by similar announcements from other capitals. What I would like to see is a final exit offer made to Assad, probably in coordination with our allies, which would allow him and his entourage to leave Syria before more lives are wasted. If that does not work the next step would be some form of smart sanctions against Syria. These sanctions should target assets and income streams financing the Assad regime. That said, sanctions tend to freeze and prolong the status quo. That is a rather undesirable outcome for Turkey. Turkey needs a speedy transition to democracy. A prolonged state of current affairs in Syria is a nightmare scenario for us. The foregoing scenario then brings up the question of the Syrian opposition to fore. The whispers in Ankara are that the Syrian opposition needs “to mature and show leadership as well as capacity” to be a credible alternative to a post-Assad Syria. This should be no surprise given that dissent and opposition to the Baath Party was not tolerated and the environment for a Syrian opposition to mature never existed. Hence, transition to democracy inevitably requires nurturing and preparing the Syrian opposition.
Turkey will eventually lead on Syria. The reintegration of Turkey into its southern neighborhood demands it to take bold action although it could not have come at a more inconvenient time as the government prepares for a new strategy in the fight against the PKK. However, leaders rarely have the opportunity to initiate actions on their terms. If Turkey is going to become a leading player and an inspiration for the people of the Middle East it needs to come out of the Syrian crisis on the right side. We simply do not have the luxury to fall into a timing problem like we regrettably experienced in Libya. Lastly, what Turkey does on Syria may coincide with US and European policies. By charging the government as a “lackey of the West” Turkey’s main opposition party not only continues to abuse latent anti-Western/American sentiments but also reminds us about a severely problematic mentality of our society. That issue I will tackle in my next column.
Lastupdate on : Thu, 18 Aug 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 18 Aug 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 19 Aug 2011 00:00:00 IST
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