A full year has passed since the start of protest, and tragically, the regional countries have failed to display the right initiative, willpower and insight. Iran and Turkey have emerged as the top two countries who have failed the test with respect to the Syrian crisis. Leaving aside the national reflexes along with the rhetoric of public diplomacy strategies and propaganda, both countries have proved that they are actually no different from each other. They put the blame on each other but they appear to be equally guilty. Every sane person knew that the crisis in Syria could be solved before it grew out of proportion if Turkey and Iran had reached an agreement. If Iran and Turkey had exerted peaceful pressure on Bashar al-Assad and the opposition, the crisis would have been averted with an interim solution and general elections would have been held on a date acceptable to both sides, while the way to drafting a new constitution could have been paved.
Tehran repeated the great error it made back in 1982, refraining from developing dialogue with the Syrian opposition. It turned a blind eye to the Baath regime’s ruthless killing of Muslims. This again clouded the prestige of the Islamic revolution. In 1982, we learned what the following assertion meant: “Big revolutions occur in the Third World countries, but foreign and finance ministers do not change.” The Finance Ministry changed slightly but the blind Realpolitik attitude of the Foreign Ministry did not.
Since the start, Ankara has pursued a misguided policy with regard to the Syrian crisis. Although it was supposed to offer a model for the region by “managing the political change based on calm power, soft power, trade, visa exemptions, dialogue and social change,” it helped to deepen the crisis under the influence of the United States and the Gulf countries. It failed to prevent the Syrian opposition’s militarization, and civilian protests soon evolved into armed clashes. Today, Turkey takes special pride in noting that the country’s relations with the US are at the highest level.
We now face a picture that is much more tragic compared to one year ago. The regional countries are now divided into two fronts according to the global strategies of the big guns: On one hand are the countries that have secured relative backing of Russia and China, i.e., Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the Arab streets that fulminate with rage against the US and Israel, and on the other hand are the US, the UK, France, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf countries. Egypt does not show its colors and chooses to be on standby, trying to solve its own problems.
This polarization is horrible and dismal. As we were heading toward a regional integration, we suddenly found ourselves in camps hostile to each other. Lebanese Strategic Studies Manager Muhammad Nureddin says that if Turkey conducts a military operation against Syria, it has to risk a collective war against Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon at the same time.
Concerning the invasion of Iraq and the shelling of Libya, I have argued that the regional countries should create an Islamic peacekeeping force that would meddle with the crisis regions. Of course, before any intervention, diplomatic initiatives should be exhausted fully. Indeed, peace is essential and peace is always more beneficial. If Turkey and Iran had reached an agreement, there would not have been so much bloodshed in Syria. Actually, visiting Iran in early January, Ahmet Davutoğlu said: “Iran may play a role in the solution of the Syrian issue. We believe that Iran’s conveying of necessary suggestions to the Syrian administration would be a great contribution to the process.”
As two leading regional countries, Turkey and Iran, have failed to effect such cooperation. They could not overcome their narrow national interests, their engagements with the external world and sectarian fanaticism. Now, the Western countries will assume the savior role and rain Syria with thousands of bombs. As was the case in Libya, thousands of people will die and the country’s infrastructure will be destroyed. Or they will force Turkey to conduct this disgraceful intervention. “O human being! Whatever good happens to you, it is from God; and whatever evil befalls you, it is from yourself” (Sura An-Nisa, 4: 79). If we deserve evil, it will befall us. It doesn’t matter if it is Turkey, Iran, the Arab League or the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC); unfortunately, all of them are nothing but useless specters.