Friday, August 12, 2011

Thinking about Syria Watching Turkey

"If this can be solved it can only be solved through Turkish efforts."

Turkey is a Muslim neighbor of Syria with growing regional, economic, and diplomatic clout, it also has the most formidable military in the region. It has open lines of communication with Syrian government, Muslim Brotherhood, “The West”, and some of the fractishish movement members. So all eyes on Turkey

Veysel Ayhan, an associate professor from the Bolu Abant İzzet Baysal University and an expert on the Middle East and Syria, said a NATO intervention in Syria would turn the region into absolute hell. “Turkey is back to its position in the 1990s. It is pursuing a proactive foreign policy. We can confidently say that a wave of refugees much bigger than the one during the Gulf War is in store, as it is unlikely that the situation in Syria will be resolved in the near future. NATO handled the situation in Afghanistan and Libya badly. Western countries can't make any contributions to NATO in similar operations. If this can be solved, it can only be solved through Turkey's efforts. If, in the long run, NATO intervenes, we could be faced with a more dire picture.”

Turkey has everything on the table diplomacy, shaming, and military. Turkey is ranked 8th of the worlds military with a standing force of over 600 thousand personnel. It has an approximately 19 billion (US) budget ranking 17th in the world and is capable of purchasing top gear from any of the major arms producers states. Put that in comparison to Syria’s 300 thousand force with a 1 or 2 billion budget without similar access to top end
weapons. Syria has another problems namely if its forces came up against the superior Turkish military, purportedly there to protect the Sunni majority from the Alawi minority dominated state, there is likely to be a level of defection by the Sunni dominated lower ranks.

Turkey seems to want to avoid military intervention and is adamant about no NATO intervention. However it is stated that it may cross the border to set up refuge camps there instead of on Turkish territory. Further it has made a recall of officers who have left the military in the last five years most of whom went to border areas (Militarily that would keep its current standing force ready to operate externally if necessary). There has also been a doubling of the security at Iskenderum Naval base Turkeys closest to Syria. This base is on land that is bitterly contested by Syria (about 20m 50k on land/air twice that on sea).

Turkey stated that it is considering a limited invasion.
Turkey has recalled 5yrs worth of retired officers.
Turkey expects reforms within 15 days. (as of 8-10-11) (Some of the demands were likely met immediately with the Syrian military withdrawal from Hama and allowing a Turkish diplomat and Turkish journalists to visit the city)

If Turkey believes it needs additional forces it is preparing for the potential of a regional war (* perhaps it is just overkill).

Key Points on regional war;

Lebanon is a tinder box and could flare up.

Israel may take advantage and take a second shot at Hezbollah while its supply line is hampered.

Syria and Iran surly have some levels of mutual defense agreement. If missiles get fired or a border brawl takes place between Iran (note, Iran's military is not structured for invading but to repulse invasion) and Turkey(‘s full spectrum) the latter will have full NATO backing. Some opportunists could make a play for Iran's nuclear, missile, and air defense capabilities.

If the Syrian regime falls to fast Turkey would be all but required to occupy it for its own security and to prevent the humanitarian catastrophe that would unfold.

            Pluses for Turkey intervention militarily

If there is to be an operation in Syria the Turks appear to want to go it alone (visibly at least… NATO satellite, deterrence, and anything else they need will be there). The Turks would be the protectors of the Sunni Islamic World. Reestablish some of the Espri de corp the military has lost lately while shoring up civilian control. (Not much)


Of course intentionally risking a regional war would be foolish. Turkey already feeling the financial losses do to the disturbances in the region, the inflow of refuges, the effect on the Kurdish insurrection, its relationship with Iran being damaged, the effect of its image on the Arab street will likely divide Shia Sunni rift, a lot of people could/will die, outcome of the conflict will be even less predictable, and potentially a major shift in regional power from Iran to Saudi Arabia (chose for yourself if that's any good).

So lets hope for a serious diplomatic effort works because as Michael Bell wrote (in one of the more intelligent pieces out) 'There is no happy end to Syria's power struggle. Hope your up for a challenge Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu because as was stated Only Turkey can do this. We hope you chose the wisest course and We wish you the best. 

For an understanding of the sectarian problem Josh Landis's blog "Syria comment" has a blog  it's a bit of a collection of news but there is first hand account of the radicalisation of Syrians from somebody in Syria about the radicalization on the minority communities. I can't find it try yrself.