Daily Israel Report

Syria a Bigger Headache for Turkey than Libya

Because of a shared border and the Kurdish population Turkey may be forced to get involved in Syria.
By Aryeh Ben Hayim
First Publish: 4/26/2011, 2:21 PM / Last Update: 4/26/2011, 4:10 PM

Kol Yisrael has just reported that a Turkish citizen was shot in the head crossing into Jordan from Syria. As it is Assad's security forces who hold the weapons, the incident may force Ankara's hand.

The Turkish opposition has begun to make hay over the issue by accusing the ruling AKP – Justice and Development Party – of employing a double standard in terms of Syria. A column in the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet complained that the "government, which is eager to bash Israel on every occasion over Gaza, has very little to say in the face of the images of brutality coming out of Syria and Libya. In the meantime, no one in the party is openly accusing Gaddafi or Assad of murdering their citizens…. those pro-AKP organizations are quick to gather outside the Israeli embassy in protest [but] are not to be seen outside the Libyan or Syrian embassies.

How could a Muslim party ignore the fate of the Muslims in these countries, questioned the columnist.  He also predicted that the insurgents would remember Turkey's cowardly stance when they came to power. "We also saw how the opponents of Gaddafi, who we believe will be successful in the end, turned against Turkey. The same thing could easily happen in Syria if the AKP government continues to go softy softly on Assad."

Syria is more of an issue for Turkey than Libya because of the common border. Turkey fears that the current crackdown could stimulate tides of Syrian refugees crossing the border with Turkey. The Turkish Foreign Ministry is already running through scenarios. A destabilized Syria would also exacerbate Turkey's Kurdish problem.

The United States has been in close contact with the Turks and is playing good cop bad cop with Ankara. Officer Obama has been the good cop calling Turkish Premier Erdoganto express "appreciation for Turkey's ongoing humanitarian efforts in Libya and its participation in the NATO No-Fly Zone and Arms Embargo operations." The bad cop was being played by David S. Cohen, Acting Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in the Treasury Department, who is visiting Ankara this week to emphasize the requirement that Turkey comply with the sanctions against Iran and Libya.“ Cohen will warn the Turks that if they trade with Iran and Gaddafi's Libya, they will find the U.S. financial system barred to them. Now that Washington has reluctantly moved to economic sanctions against Syria, one can expect similar pressure on Ankara in that direction as well.