Friday, May 24, 2013


"Lethal explosions in a Turkish border town at the weekend highlight the dilemma Turkey faces over Syria as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan prepares to discuss the issue with Barack Obama. Officials on Sunday blamed Syrian intelligence and Turkish collaborators for Saturday’s car bomb blasts in the town of Reyhanli, which killed at least 46 people and left many more wounded. The authorities said nine people, all Turkish nationals, had been arrested, including the mastermind of the attack. In comments that seemed to hint at the dangers of a military response and inter-ethnic clashes, Mr Erdogan called for patience and restraint. “We have to be extremely calm against all kinds of provocations that are trying to pull us into the swamp in Syria,” he said. Reyhanli shelters many Syrian refugees, but most of the casualties were Turkish. “This really does put Turkey in a tight spot,” said Soli Ozel, at Istanbul’s Kadir Has university, who argued that Ankara lacked the intelligence and electronic capabilities that allowed Israel to strike Syria this month and had more to fear from escalation of the violence. “It shows Turkey’s vulnerabilities . . . Turkey is now more fully part of the Syrian civil war.” Ankara is constrained by the domestic unpopularity of its stance on Syria, with opposition leaders responding to the attacks by immediately calling on the government to review its policy. As well as taking in an estimated 300,000-450,000 refugees, the country is also one of the most prominent backers of both the political and military opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s regime, with particularly strong ties to Muslim Brotherhood groups. But, despite almost two years of campaigning against Mr Assad and increased tension with his ally, Tehran, Ankara has found it difficult to respond to a series of deadly incidents, instead urging the US to take the lead, as Mr Erdogan is expected to do at a White House meeting with Mr Obama on Thursday. Turkey has responded in only a limited fashion to events over the past year that have included Syria shooting down a Turkish jet, the deaths of Turkish citizens in cross-border artillery fire and a car bomb in February, which killed 14 people on the frontier itself “We want the US to assume more responsibilities and take further steps . . . We are going to talk about this,” Mr Erdogan told NBC television last week. He added that it was “clear” the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons and missiles, crossing a “red line” set by Mr Obama, and said Turkey had long backed a no-fly zone"
Daniel Dombey, "Deadly blasts put spotlight on Turkey’s dilemma over Syria." The Financial Times. 12 May 2013, in
"Perhaps Obama's greatest political achievement in the Middle East lies in nourishing an exceptionally close strategic relationship with Turkey and its outspoken Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan....The Obama administration has co-opted the new rising geostrategic and geo-economic power....What explains Obama's strategic partnership with Turkey? Having decided to reduce America's military footprint in the region and lower its profile, Obama looked to Turkey, with its liberal, successful economic model, to fill any power vacuum there."
Fawax A. Gerges. "The Obama approach to the Middle East: the end of America's moment?" International Affairs. March 2013, pp.316-317.
The frequently mounted claims of recent years that Turkey was the coming 'Great Power' in the Near and Middle Eastern region has been shown by recent events to be an erroneous claim indeed. As Hezbollah and Persia step-up their joint military intervention in the Syrian conflict, Turkey remains peacefully on the sidelines, offering no counter-move 1. Indeed, the only response by Ankara to the recent events was the announcement that Turkey will construct a fortified wall along a portion of its border with Syria 2. Hardly the stuff of a budding Great Power. Notwithstanding claims made by biased and ill-informed journalists, cum 'academics' of the Gerges variety, Turkey is most definitely not a Great Power by any means. No doubt it would like to be considered as such, but so far it appears to lack the ambition and the domestic support for such a role. As the Financial Times report referenced above, notes, the Turkish Government's policy in the Syrian Crisis has been notable for its unpopularity with the Turkish public. A long time ago, the late, great, English Diplomatic Historian Alan Taylor, defined a 'Great Power' as a power which au fond is willing to go to war against any other Great Power. Turkey, as seen by its policies in the current Syrian Crisis, appears to entertain no such willingness to engage any of its regional rivals: either the greatly weakened Syria, much less Persia. That fact should put paid to the notion that Ankara is a coming 'Great Power', regional or of any sort indeed.
1. Khaled Yacoub Oweis, "Hezbollah, Syrian army renew Qusair offensive." Reuters. 21 May 2013, in; Abigail Fielding-Smith, "Hizbollah’s Syrian involvement deepens regional sectarian divide." The Financial Times. 24 May 2013, in
2. Jonathon Burch, "Turkey builds wall at Syria border crossing after bombs." Reuters. 24 May 2013, in


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