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June 27, 2012, Wednesday

Cool-headed, yet tough response to Syria

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s much-anticipated address regarding Turkey’s reaction to Syria’s shooting down of a Turkish military jet on Friday was closely followed in both the domestic and international media. Erdoğan noted that the attack has resulted in a new phase in Turkish-Syrian relations, sparking a bilateral conflict between the two neighbors.

According to Adem Yavuz Arslan in the Bugün daily, Erdoğan considers the hostile attack by the Syrian regime -- under President Bashar al-Assad, whom he once called “my brother” -- a matter of pride. He further suggests, however, that Erdoğan will follow a “method of vagueness” in reply, according to which the prime minister is expected to respond decisively to the attack but the nation as a whole will decide on the nature of the reaction. This leaves Syria on tenterhooks, having to be prepared for an attack of any sort at any time.

Arslan notes that Erdoğan’s statement that “the rules of engagement of the Turkish Armed Forces have changed” indicates two important points. First, Turkey is determined to settle accounts with Syria for its downed jet at all costs. Second, Turkey’s strategy may also aim to topple the Assad government, because the Assad regime, which has been massacring its own people for over a year, now also poses a threat to Turkey. In sum, says Arslan, Turkey realizes there is a “big game” being played by other nations and will act in accordance with this game; but, wise as it is, it may extend its reaction over a period of time, in order to catch Syria off guard.

Cengiz Çandar of the Radikal daily says that Erdoğan’s speech intimates a warning from Turkey to Syria. However, much is still unclear as to how close Syrian military units need to be to the Turkish-Syrian border for Turkey to respond to them as a threat, or what form this response should take. Çandar writes that Erdoğan’s speech did not answer the question of whether Turkey will engage in military conflict with Syria or not; it merely signaled that “Turkey is not far from entering a war with Syria.”

As Sami Kohen has written for Milliyet, now that all the details of the attack have been revealed and confirmed, Erdoğan has responded publicly to the attack and NATO has declared its stance, the only thing left to do is to wait for Assad’s next move.

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