In an assessment of Turkey's Middle East policy, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has said Ankara failed to understand the situation in Syria, misjudging the political processes and developments in the country.
“Turkey was mistaken about Syria; top Turkish officials could not properly read Syria. Initially, Ankara thought everything would be very easy and that [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad would leave very quickly; later, they realized developments would not go in that direction,” Talabani said in an interview with the Milliyet daily on Friday.
Commenting on the Syrian Alawites, who dominate the government and hold prominent military positions despite being a minority, Talabani said they do not want to leave their positions of authority and so cling to the Baath regime.
“Christians [also a minority in Syria] are afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood. There is a phrase going around in Syria: Alawites to coffins and Christians to Lebanon. The Druse, a Middle Eastern religious community, are also divided,” Talabani said.
On the Syrian Kurds, Talabani pointed out that the Kurdish National Council (KNC) in Syria has not yet joined the new Syrian opposition group. “The Democratic Union Party [PYD, a political offshoot of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Syria] is keeping principal territories in Syria under its control but is afraid of Turkey,” Talabani said.
However, the Iraqi leader noted, while Syria's Sunni Arabs want Assad to leave, the middle class in both Damascus and Aleppo has not yet decided whether it wants Assad removed. Still, 60 percent of Syria's population is made up of Sunni Arabs, of which a significant portion is middle class, liberal and urbanized.
The Assad regime is an authoritarian regime that has maintained minority rule over the majority. Therefore, any change in the structure of the regime implies a redistribution of power away from the Alawites and in the direction of the majority -- Sunni Arabs.
“In the meantime, the Assad regime does not fully control the country, but it does not seem likely that it will collapse, either,” Talabani said, adding, “Unfortunately, our friends in Ankara could not read the situation well and failed to see the whole picture.”