22 July 2015
A suicide bombing killed 32 people and wounded more than a 100 in the town of Suruç on Turkey’s border with Syria. Am I grieved? Of course I am. Am I disturbed? Of course I am. Am I surprised? No I’m not. Investigation to establish the exact identity of the perpetrators of the crime is continuing. But everybody already knows the perpetrator. The perpetrator is the misguided Syria policy of the Justice and Development Party (JDP) Government.
In the face of Arab Spring uncertainties, Turkey would have been well-advised to maintain its traditional policy of non-involvement in inter-Arab affairs, put emphasis on crisis management, diplomatic solutions and make use of whatever had remained of its soft power. Unfortunately, the JDP Government dismissed caution as a sign of weakness. It miscalculated Assad’s capacity to survive and became a party to the conflict, taking part in shifting Arab alliances. This turned our 1300 kilometer border with Iraq and Syria (400 and 900 kilometers respectively) into a war zone between ISIS, the anti-ISIL coalition, Al Nusra, the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition with a multitude of negative consequences for Turkey. With our porous borders ISIL eventually became an internal threat as well.
Today many countries continue to say that President Assad has no political future. But they see ISIL as a greater challenge to regional and global security. They are neither as obsessed with Assad as we are, nor were they as close to him in the past as we were.
Three years ago the Government predicted that Assad would go in months, if not weeks, and his hanging on to power became an embarrassment, a source of profound frustration, an unexplainable failure. The argument that we were standing by our principles and by the peoples against oppressive regimes was hardly convincing. As a matter of fact, our guiding principle had been to be part of solutions not part of problems.
On 7 June Turkey held parliamentary elections. I hoped that regardless of who formed the new government this would provide an opportunity to review Syria policy. It has been six weeks since the election and no new government is yet in sight. All we see is a slow motion process of meetings, statements, declaration of intentions and clarification of what was said. So it seems that the present caretaker JDP Government will continue to “manage” Turkey’s Syria policy at this critical juncture.
The foregoing may sound familiar, even repetitive. Indeed it is. Because during the last three years I, like many others, have constantly tried to draw attention to the inherent risks in Turkey’s Syria policy.
Would this worst spillover in deadly violence from the Syrian conflict lead to a revision of Government’s policy? Not a chance, because this know-it-all Government will never admit a mistake.