Turkey, the Gatekeeper for US Policy for Syria
BY HRANT APOVIAN
“Islamaphobia is a crime against humanity,
like Zionism, Antisemitism, and Fascism.”
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Prime Minister of Turkey
All eyes are on Syria. After two years of a “popular” revolt against a dictatorial government, the result is total devastation of a country, almost seventy thousand dead, and over three million people displaced. The focus is Syria. The West has designated Syria as a pariah state, a tyrannical dictatorship, on which sanctions have been put in place. The president of Syria is deemed to be undesirable. Life as we know it, has stopped in Syria. Syrian president Bashar Asaad’s loyalties to Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia are no longer tolerated.
The henchman to oversee and accomplish the destruction of a country – Syria – that does not have the right to exist, and where people have to be punished and suffer is a US ally Turkey. It is the country that has a 500 mile frontier with Syria, which supplies arms to rebels in Syria, trains them, and gives them safe haven. Turkey is also sending in across the border Turkish advisers, Jihadists, and Muslim extremist groups.
What is not known to the world is that Turkish officials, who have claimed to aim for zero problems with their neighbors are – According to an op-ed article in the New York Times – “exacerbating Syria’s sectarian strife, rather than contributing to a peaceful and pluralistic solution.” Ironically, President Obama thanked “The Turkish Government for the leadership it has provided in the efforts to end the violence in Syria, and start the political transition process.”
Turkey’s ambitions do not stop there. Turkey has other hidden goals on its agenda, namely,:
First: Turkey has always had claims of ownership for certain border territories within Syria, and will use any pretext to go in and extend its territory as a legitimate and necessary buffer zone.
Second: Turkey is encouraging and promoting the Muslim Brotherhood by giving it safe haven, military aid, and a dominant presence in the Syria National Council, headquartered in Istanbul.
Third: Turkey will at all cost suppress Kurdish areas of Syria, by pitting certain rebel groups against the Kurds, and will not hesitate to invade if necessary Kurdish areas like Ras Al-Ain in Northern Syria, to prevent any Kurdish autonomy aspirations.
Fourth: Turkey will target, if given the chance, and has already started a campaign against Christian Minorities in Syria. Most notably, the thriving Armenian Community in Syria. A community that is very much part of the Syrian Fabric, whose forefathers – survivors of the Armenian Genocide, perpetrated by Turkey in 1915 – found safe haven in Syria, after crossing the desert. Armenians have a special debt of gratitude to the Syrian People that gave them asylum. Armenian Churches are being targeted and burned, factories owned by Armenians are being looted and then burned. Turkey’s aim is to rid itself of a vibrant Armenian Community, in advance of the hundredth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in 2015. The Church and the monastery in Der el Zor, that is also the resting place for bones of genocide victims gathered from the desert, has already been bombarded and looted.
Fifth: Turkey is exercising its hegemony in the Middle East, by aiming to win over the hearts and minds of the Sunni majority in the Arab States, claiming to be its champion, acting as the protector of Palestinian rights by criticizing Israel for its attack and blockade of the Gaza strip in Palestine, and confronting the Iranian Threat. The irony is that Turkey is pursuing its grand designs under the guise of being the undisputed “Watchdog” of U.S. Policy. A self proclaimed unrestrained role, that is not necessarily in accordance with U.S. Interests.
Sixth: Turkey’s ruling government is hiding its true identity. While it professes to conform to European Standards of Pluralism, it is aiming to ultimately create an Islamist State. That is also the grand design for Syria. That is the reason Islamic rebel groups are getting special military and monetary help. The military situation in Syria is a reflection of that. The next phase of the sectarian strife in Syria is unfortunately going to prove to be a dire predicament for all minorities in Syria, specially Christians. Historical precedent tells us that the political outcome will be decided and dominated by Islamist groups that have the military edge on the ground. As much as the US is dissatisfied with the Syrian Regime’s alliances, a future Islamist Syria can be more unpredictable and dangerous both for the U.S. And Syria’s Neighbors, Israel, and Lebanon. Christian presence is part of the fabric and is vital for Syria and Lebanon.
This is not a condemnation of US Syria Policy. It is a reminder that it is wrong to put the wolf – which happens to be Turkey’s national animal – as the guardian of the chicken coop. Turkey’s eagerness to become a regional Islamist Powerhouse, surpassing Israel as the foremost ally of the US, championing Arab and Palestinian Causes, while sending Jihadists to Syria does not bode well for a US policy based on the promotion of democracy, peaceful coexistence, suppression of extremist ideologies, and pluralism.
Turkey has succeeded in shedding its image as “the Sick Man of Europe”. Its economy is booming thanks to new markets in Muslim – majority markets and the Middle East. It is working for integration in the European Union, while actively pursuing the hearts and minds of Islamic extremists. It has never given up on its Pan Turkic grand designs. It is still occupying part of Cyprus. Armenia is still a thorn in a Turkey – Azerbaijan alliance and is being suffocated economically by a prolonged Turkish blockade. Finally, it has not come to terms with its genocidal past, and after 98 years continues its policy of denial. It is still purging Kurdish minorities both in Turkey and Iraq. Its pledge to engage in conciliatory dialogue with neighboring countries has not materialized. It is vacillating between its Islamic identity and its vision as a modern European rising power. Turkey has perfected the art of playing both sides.