Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Turkey burned its bridges to Syria

From the Guardian about Syria:

Sinan Ülgen, a former Turkish diplomat now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Ankara's preferred option would be regional support for limited Nato operations, including a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridor. "Turkey is beyond the point of no return," he said. "It has burned its bridges. The longer Assad stays in Syria, the worse it is. Turkey has bet heavily on regime change."

That is how far we have sunk as Western world. Turkey has made unwise moves and now it wants others to follow it in its folly so that its foolishness becomes hidden. What happened to facing up to your mistakes? Turkey could fire its present foreign minister as a scapegoat and try again but it looks like it lacks the courage.

Another article describes how far Turkey has gone in burning its bridges:

Unmarked NATO warplanes are arriving at Turkish military bases close to Iskenderum on the Syrian border, delivering weapons from the late Muammar Gaddafi’s arsenals as well as volunteers from the Libyan Transitional National Council who are experienced in pitting local volunteers against trained soldiers, a skill they acquired confronting Gaddafi’s army. Iskenderum is also the seat of the Free Syrian Army, the armed wing of the Syrian National Council. French and British special forces trainers are on the ground, assisting the Syrian rebels while the CIA and U.S. Spec Ops are providing communications equipment and intelligence to assist the rebel cause, enabling the fighters to avoid concentrations of Syrian soldiers.

Yet it seems unlikely that Turkey will intervene in Syria as its Alevi community is fiercely opposed to that.

The only opinion poll availabe shows 55% of the Syrians want Assad to stay. It has rightly be criticized for its small sample size but there is no doubt that Assad has considerable support. And although according to Peter Harling of the International Crisis Group his support is decreasing there are also reports about former protesters who now support the government because they see no viable alternative at the moment. See also this link.

The report of the Arab League observation mission was mainly critical about the violence used by the opposition. Maybe that was the real reason they were withdrawn.

This article ("Rebels without a clue") describes the SNC: dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, disorganized, disconnected from the Syrians on the ground, and out of step with the broad spectrum of Syrian society. As a consequence their relation with the fighters and protesters in Syria is problematic. They are seen as trying to steal a part of the success of the protesters. It doesn't help either that many Syrian soldiers have been educated to see the Brotherhood as the main enemy.

This article describes how Assad behaves under the circumstances: "fully abreast of events on the ground - not the mere puppet of hardliners that some have portrayed - "relaxed and phlegmatic", and determined to see off the challenge, offering some reforms, strictly on his own terms."
Assad is described as holding back in his reaction to the uprising ("Eighty percent of the army is still in the barracks"), both because of the international reaction and because he doesn't want to give the army too much power.

A press overview on Syria can be found on Syria Comment. Other interesting sites: Brian Whitacre.

This article (Questioning the Syrian “Casualty List”) criticizes the death count as provided by SOHR, the UN and other organizations. It mentions examples of casualties on the list that shouldn't be there. As the SOHR website is in Arabic and refers to Facebook for English speakers one needs to understand Arabic to check it out.

Syria Witness is a very long page with many interviews with people who tend to be pro-opposition.

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