Hate for AK Party, love for Baath!

The Syrian crisis that became all the more complicated with the downing of our jet »»

The Syrian crisis that became all the more complicated with the downing of our jet in the Mediterranean has helped groups in Turkey and around the world come together although they previously seemed irreconcilable.

Thus, Iran’s Islamic government, which had clashed with Iraq’s Baath regime for many years, started to lend its full support to Syria’s Baath regime while troops affiliated with Hezbollah, which was once perceived as the symbol of Islamic resistance, rushed to help Baathist troops who were massacring Muslims in Hama and Homs. A great portion of the Iraqi Shiites, who were primarily tyrannized by the Baath regime that is enforcing in Syria the tyrannies which Saddam Hussein had imposed on them, have support in all platforms, including the Arab League. Oddly enough, these groups, which have no common denominator other than Shiism, are accusing Turkey of pursuing sectarian policies.

The campaign to support the Baath regime by foreign actors with different political ideologies has made an impact on Turkey as well. The groups who would be alarmed to hear such concepts as “Islam,” “Shariah” and “mullah” have, right from the start, relied on fake or fabricated news stories coming from Iran, Syria and Lebanon.

It is impossible to understand how two neo-nationalist (ulusalcı) newspapers reconcile their recent editorial policies with their claims of neo-nationalism. For instance, when the Turkish foreign ministry or the Turkish General Staff makes a statement about a matter, it is quite natural to adopt a critical view of these official statements as they occasionally fail to be completely true. However, isn’t it odd that a paper that claims to be neo-nationalist does not trust an official statement made by Turkish officials but unquestioningly runs a headline about a statement made by an Iranian or Syrian official or about a news story by an American paper? Moreover, they do this even though almost of all of the news stories disseminated by these countries are proven to be false.

And only a left neo-nationalist newspaper accepted to publish an interview by Bashar al-Assad. A reporter may choose to have an interview with the leader of an enemy country for the sake of informing the general public. But the interview published by the Cumhuriyet newspaper served to reinforce the paper’s harsh opposition to the government with the enemy country’s leader’s similar views. Although this is quite normal for a liberal newspaper, a paper which claims to be neo-nationalist and labels everything as ‘foreign-oriented’ published Assad’s interviews over several days even before the funeral ceremonies for the pilots who were killed on Assad’s orders were held. But it is no coincidence that this ideological line has always been sympathetic to Baath-like regimes in Turkey.

Perhaps we should have a look at the criticism voiced against the government’s Syria policy: Some groups are sympathetic to the Baath regime for ideological or sectarian reasons and are concerned that if this regime is overthrown, it will be replaced by a Sunni or Islamic-leaning regime. So they argue that Turkey should just sit by and watch the bloodshed in Syria or lend support to the Baath regime. Those who view the Syrian crisis from Tehran’s perspective see the Baath regime as resisting the US and Israel and they perceive Turkey’s siding with Syrian people as an attitude against this resistance. The only thing that will satisfy them is Turkey’s acting in line with the Baath regime, similar to Iran. These circles tend to treat the Syrian crisis as an extension of their opposition to the government in domestic matters. They just want the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to be unsuccessful with its Syria policy, but don’t care whether the Baath regime survives to kill or torture thousands of innocent people. In addition, there are some groups who fall outside of the abovementioned ideological or sectarian categories and who lend support to the government’s policy of siding with Syrian people, but who criticize the style adopted by the government.

While there is debate among elites, the public in general lends its support to the government’s foreign policy but are quite confused about Syria. The influence of the groups who opt for siding with the Baath regime from an ideological or sectarian perspective, the government’s failure to explain its policy in clear terms, the government’s abandonment by its Western allies and the general public’s difficulty in understanding the quick change of heart of the Turkish government in its relations with Syria all have a share in this. A survey conducted by the Institute of Strategic Thinking (SDE) published on Tuesday actually summarizes this well: The rate of those who approve of the government’s Syria policy is 33.1 percent while the rate of those who think it is a wrong policy is 48.8 percent. The rate of those who disapprove of this policy among the supporters of the main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), is 75.3 percent. Although foreign policy in Turkey has tended to be perceived as something above politics, it has now led to fragmentation with regards to Syria. This is something we must ponder.