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August 08, 2011, Monday

Davutoğlu in Syria: the beginning of the end

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a strong message to Syria on Aug. 6, indicating that Turkey is running out of patience. Erdoğan said in a statement: “Our messages will be delivered to him decisively.

The process from now on will be determined by their response and practice because we do not see the Syrian issue as an external problem. The Syrian issue is our business because we share an 850-kilometer border with Syria. We have historical and cultural ties. Therefore, we cannot remain a mere bystander vis-à-vis what has been happening in that country. Quite the contrary, we have to hear the voices there. We do, and we have to do what needs to be done.”

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will travel to Syria on Aug. 9 to hold talks on the current issues. On Aug. 7, Bashar al-Assad’s political and media advisor Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban sent a strong response to Ankara. Saban said: “If Davutoğlu delivers a strong message to Syria, he will get a stronger response vis-à-vis the attitude of Turkey, which did not condemn the merciless acts and murders of armed terror groups fighting against civilians, military and the police.”

The positions of Turkey, France and the Russian Federation on the Syrian issue should be considered carefully. All these three countries have adopted harsh language in their statements. Turkey and Syria have coexisted together for over 400 centuries between 1516 and 1918 during the Ottoman era. They also shared the same state organization even before the Ottoman Empire. France has been influential over the politics and culture of Syria and Lebanon since colonial times (1921-1946). It is the protective power of Christian Arabs in the region. The Russian Federation has maintained advanced relations with Syria since the Cold War years.

Spontaneous events that erupted in March in the country were brutally cracked down by the government. What does the Assad administration want to do? Liberals who introduced economic reforms in Syria were stressing the need for political reforms as well. However, the introduction of political reforms would mean an end to the Assad rule and the domination of the Alevi-Nusayri minority in the country. As this would have been suicidal, it was impossible to introduce reforms in Syria. For this reason, in an attempt to protect itself, the regime removed liberals from the political sphere when the uprising broke out in March. For instance, former Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah al-Dardari, the architect of economic reforms, who was expected to become Syria’s new envoy to Turkey, had to settle in Lebanon where he assumed a UN position. Samir al-Taqi, the Western side of Assad, moved to Dubai where he launched a think tank. In this way, over the last few months the military and the deep state have maintained full control in Syria. The military and the deep state now would like to incite sectarian conflict between the Sunnis and the Alevis. For this reason, it resorted to violent acts in predominantly Sunni areas. Subsequently, the regime wants to appeal to Christian Arabs and convince the world that the Sunnis are violent against the Christians. In the third stage the Syrian administration would seek to secure the support of Western countries by pledging to introduce further political and economic reforms. In the fourth stage, the administration will force the West to accept the fact that it has to live with the Assad regime.

But there are a few flaws in this plan. First of all, we are no longer in the Cold War era. The Cold War balances and considerations during the Hama massacre in 1982 no longer exist. Secondly, the Arab Spring has influenced Syria. The Syrian people are opposed to the idea of living with the Assads forever, and they keep taking to the streets decisively. The uprising is not controllable by excessive measures. Syria wants its spring. Thirdly, sustaining violence to maintain order and playing games within this order is impossible under current global conditions. For this reason, the Damascus administration needs to understand that it is the beginning of the end for the current repressive regime, rather than relying on ungrounded threats.

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