Turkey Working to Impose the Libyan Model on Syria
Turkey may have bungled relief efforts for the earthquake victims, but then Turkey has bigger fish to fry. Turkey has been increasingly asserting its control over the Syrian opposition to the Assad regime in the hope of securing influence with a new regime that will replace the Baath regime.
It is plain that Turkey was originally wrong-footed by the events in Libya when it originally denounced Western intervention. But it has assimilated some of the lessons from Libya and is seeking to transpose them to Syria.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, referring to the death of Muammar Qaddafi after meeting the head of the Libyan National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, was sad to see the Libyan ruler meet his demise in such a manner, as he had been a fixture for so long in the region.
But Qaddafi, explained Davutoğlu, was also responsible for his end, because he ignored his people’s demands and international calls for reform, including ones from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Although Syria is different from Libya in terms of its ethnic composition and geographic location, Tripoli offers a lesson for Damascus. Regime survival ia ultimately dependent on legitimacy, so "there are lessons from Libya that everyone can take."
"We will not allow chaos and despotism to take hold in Syria; it is our responsibility to the Syrian people,” Davutoğlu told reporters at a joint press conference with his Jordanian counterpart, Nasser Judeh, on Wednesday. Turkey praised Jordan for embarking on the needed reforms and looked upon Jordan, which also borders Syria, as a partner in sorting out Syria.
Turkey is not, however, interested in political theory. It is interested in cold facts. To dislodge the Assad regime in Syria, Turkey needs the situation in Syria to approximate the Libyan situation in the following 2 ways:
It is necessary for the Syrian opponents to the Assad regime to replicate the success of the Libyan insurgents by establishing a representative organization that can claim to speak for the opposition.
Secondly, that opposition can no longer rely on demonstrations alone-- peaceful or violent. There must also be an opposition coupled with a military force that can upgrade the struggle from mass protests to a civil war with patches of territory presumably under control of the opposition.
This would lead to recognition of the opposition party - however prematurely - by states interested in deposing the Assad regime.
Turkey, due to its long border with Syria, can provide sanctuary to both the civilian and military face of the insurgents.
On Tuesday, members of the Turkish government met with the Syrian National Council that was formed in Istanbul and has its headquarters there.
The group has a 230 member General Assembly with a National Consensus Charter. While it has some members of the secular intelligentsia, the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists in general are strongly overrepresented. This suits Erdogan's Islamic AKP just fine.
Turkey has provided sanctuary to a Free Syrian Army led by a Colonel Riad Asaad (no relation to Bashar).
It has attempted to weld together soldiers who have defected from the Syrian Army.
Turkey provides security to the commands headquartered in Turkey. The Free Syrian army boasts of 22 battalions and 25,000 men under arms but this is in the realm of exaggeration.
However, news reports have confirmed attacks on checkpoints, pro-regime vigilantes and military equipment. The Syrian refugees in Turkey constitute a recruitment base as well.
Many refugees. heartened by the Libyan example. are prepared to fight. The Assad regime connived in funneling Islamists into Iraq to fight the Americans. Given the emerging Turkish sanctuary. it may find itself on the receiving end of the same strategy.