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    The paper war

    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD16 August 2012 - Okunma Sayısı: 1113


    The U.S. and the U.K., Turkey’s allies, do not want to disappoint Turkey on the Syria issue.

    According to statements made following U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Turkey, the two countries will work together on the Syria issue as regards intelligence and plans for any military intervention. It is natural that providing the intelligence that will shape future plans will take a long time, and military, political, diplomatic, and humanitarian improvements mean that it is possible to create various intervention options. In other words, the generals and intelligence officers of both countries have deduced from the “paper war” in Syria that the time for its end cannot yet be predicted.

    For the U.S. not to seek to inflame the situation to “a bloody paper war” is understandable, because the U.S. is playing its cards at times dictated by various factors such as the presidential election, the position of China, Russia and Iran in the UN, the cost of a military intervention in Syria, the complexity of such an operation, and the rebels’ unreliable behavior. Politicians can’t predict the future completely, and they don’t have a “clear political aim” to give to military planners.

    On Turkey’s side, the urgency of the situation is obvious. The number of refugees coming to Turkey from Syria has been increasing. While the costs of sheltering these refugees are on the rise, Turkey is also having difficulties controlling the camps. Besides, the local Turkish community does not conceal its irritation with the refugees.

    In Syria, uprisings and civil wars do not end quickly and have a tendency to turn into vicious cycles. The resisters have not set up a disciplined organization. As the days pass, they have become more polarized. Moreover, numerous jihadists, not only from Turkey but also from other countries, have been going to Syria with sectarian motivations. It is possible that, as well as Sunnis, Alevi (Alawi) Turkish citizens of Arab ethnic origin have been going to Syria. All along the Turkey-Syria border, sectarian and ethnic fault lines are moving slowly. If the clashes there partially to Turkey it will be no surprise.

    Similar to [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad’s supporters, the rebels continue to commit serious human rights violations, as they are not disciplined or controlled. This harms their legitimacy and makes it difficult for the civilian population to support them. Videos from conflict scenes and the clashes in Aleppo have provided important clues to understanding the situation, as it can be seen that the armed rebels are not as powerful as predicted, and the intelligence services have been mistaken in their analyses.

    Another annoying issue for Turkey is the increase in Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist attacks. This preoccupies the government, and leaves the government’s relationship to the public in a difficult position. Meanwhile, Turkey-Iran relations are strained, and the Baghdad government is grousing. Russia is watching developments silently, and will probably join the game whe it feels it is the right time.

    Nevertheless, the U.S. and the U.K., Turkey’s allies, do not want to disappoint Turkey on the Syria issue. The U.S. has suggested new topics to the Turkish Armed Forces and intelligence service to increase their “capacity for planning in the paper war.” The U.S. has also been negotiating to sell Turkey three very expensive old-fashioned war helicopters for use in the fight against the PKK. They expect us to believe that these will provide “strategic superiority” against the PKK. At this point, Clinton’s statement that “the PKK will not be permitted to settle in Syria” has “strategic depth,” and public opinion seems to have relaxed after hearing it.

    This commentary was published in Hürriyet Daily News on 16.08.2012