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WILL TURKEY GO TO WAR?

“Turkey’s policy is seen as too aggressive, too hawkish,” Sinan Ulgen, a Turkish foreign policy expert at the Carnegie Endowment. “That policy was official and had a name, “zero problems with neighbors.” By comparison, the past few weeks—a relatively tiny battle in the greater Syrian conflict—has looked to Turks like full-fledged war. The legacy of this zero-problems policy, coupled with the feelings of regional dominance, steers public opinion against the war. “Turks still have not bought into this idea that what happens in Syria is a matter for other countries,” Ulgen said. “They don’t think that Syria can realistically threaten a country like Turkey. They see it as a distant threat.”ent, told me. The refusal to support military action—what Ulgen termed “a fundamental allergy to international intervention”—is a legacy of Turkey’s own turbulent past and its failed foreign policies. Turks are still recovering from a military coup that, decades ago, pitched the country into violence. And they remain in the midst of civil war with the P.K.K. that has stretched on for three decades now, and which in the past year has intensified considerably. Turks know the toll of conflict. They link their economic prosperity to their political stability. Until recently they got along with their neighbors as a matter of policy.

Istanbul is indeed far from Akcakale, where the woman and her children were killed. It is very far from the refugee camps where over a hundred thousand Syrian refugees now live, and far from the border, which F.S.A. soldiers cross every day in both directions. “If you come here, you see the real tension,” Yilmaz Akinci, a friend and journalist for Al Jazeera who has been reporting from the border region Hatay for the past few months, told me. Like in Istanbul, the Turks living along the border are against a war with Syria. Some are pro-Assad—there is an Alawite minority along the border, and the Assads are Alawites (not to be confused with Turkish Alevis)—but more are simply worried for their lives and livelihood. They know that any battles will be fought in their front yards.

Before the conflict began, the Turkey-Syria border was a productive dotted line, separating families, friends, and business partners. Hatay has a pronounced Syrian influence in its language, food, and culture. The road connecting Turkey’s Gaziantep to Syria’s Aleppo was once heavily trafficked by shoppers, tourists, and truck drivers, but is now quiet. Some towns are literally halved by the border. Nusaybin, in Turkey, is nestled inside a U-shaped curve in the barbed wire, like it is being ladled into Syria. And Akcakale is just barely in Turkey; the distinction between the two countries never appeared more arbitrary than when that Syrian bomb fell. “The farmers, the waiters, the bank officers—they are the most afraid of the war,” Akinci told me. “The hotels here are full of journalists, not tourists. Businesses are fading. People talk every day about villages being attacked. It’s really tense.”

Then there are the refugees, whose role cannot be understated. They constitute the portion of Turkey’s Syria policy that officials refer to as the “humanitarian” side. The “military” side, so far, has consisted mostly of support for the F.S.A. But as the violence in Kilis and elsewhere has proven, those two missions cannot be kept entirely separate. Turks aren’t very happy about this, either; the refugees are increasingly being seen as both a symptom of Syria’s war and a sign of Turkey entering it. A recent poll of urban Turks revealed that sixty-six per cent disapprove of the refugees coming at all.

“The government is being too loose in terms of keeping civilians separate from the military,” Oktay Durukan, a refugee advocate at the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, told me. He estimates that an additional fifty thousand or more Syrians live in Turkey unregistered, avoiding the camps for fear of violence because of the F.S.A. element living there, which they worry makes them vulnerable to Syrian attacks. “I see a government which is trying very hard to live up to the pretensions of being a regional power,” Durukan said. “When five civilians are killed, or a jet is downed, you feel like you have to respond.”

But there is fracturing in Turkey’s anti-war movement. Taksim’s protesters, for instance, found a harsh critic in the journalist Mustafa Akyol, who called them “self-righteous” and “disturbingly immoral” in an article that week. By attacking the A.K.P. in stronger terms than they ever condemned the Assad regime they are condoning further violence, he wrote. “They keep on defending ‘Syria’s sovereignty,’ which basically means that all tyrants should have the right to slaughter their own populations while the world should not ‘interfere’ in their ‘domestic affairs.’ ” But, still, he wrote, “None of this means that Turkey should launch a war against the Syrian regime.” In a more diplomatic e-mail to me, Akyol conceded that while he disagrees with the protesters’ rhetoric, he is, like them, against a unilateral war with Syria. “The ‘anti-war movement’ in Turkey is a colorful coalition now,” he told me.

The A.K.P. parliamentarian Samil Tayyar came out with the winning quote in the saber-rattling category when he said the Turkish Army “could be in Damascus in three hours.” But even declarations like his are, at this point, more a symptom of nationalism than a real statement of support for war. That this nationalism has not been exploited to garner public support for entering Syria is perhaps the best evidence that the government does not, for now, really intend to go to war.

But the real test, Ulgen said, will come if there is ever a multilateral intervention in Syria. “Will Turkey take part, and will they have public backing or not? Having adopted such a strong rhetoric, there is the belief that Turkey has a major responsibility,” he said. “But if the government doesn’t have the Turkish public opinion on its side then, it will be very costly politically.”
Read more http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/10/will-turkey-go-to-war-with-syria.html#ixzz2AfNXiImm

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This entry was posted on Հոկտեմբերի 29, 2012 by in in English, Թուրքիա -արտաքին հարաբերություններ and tagged , , , , , , , .

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