Turkey is going through a radical change in terms of its Middle East policy. The strategy which confined the problems to its landscape and ousted Turkey to the best of its capacity is now changing.
Until now, Turkey has always preferred to stay politically and militaristically outside concerning the regional developments. With the effects of the new developments in Iraq and Syria, it now intends to be active in the center of crISIL in the military sense, too.
President Tayyip Erdoğan signaled this a week ago before his visit to the US last week. Especially, the negotiation, which was held between Erdoğan and Biden, gave some clues about this foundational change in Turkey. Erdoğan considers the crises in Syria and Iraq primarily as a threat to the security of Turkey and that intervention is somehow inevitable.
On the way back home, we had a chat with him and he summarized the situation in the light of three new principles respectively the “safety zone”, “no-fly zone” and “educate-equip”. For such a situation, he said, “We will do whatever is necessary. There is no victory in a war without a ground operation. That’s what I believe.” Thus, he revealed the Ankara’s approach to the “new situation”.
When we asked him whether the general staff did the preparations regarding the safety zone, he replied that the preparations and works were of course already done.
A single parliamentary motion and foreign soldiers
There were hasty meetings and intensive negotiations held in Ankara concerning with these preparations. Cautions were discussed in these meetings to which the government and the security officers participated.
With the renovation of the memorandum, which was valid but past the deadline, the new picture concerning the change of ISIL equation was extensively discussed.
The conviction was ascertained on the safety zone, which the US and coalition forces kept themselves away from, but after Ankara’s intensive urges they began to get closer. After the preparatory works of the general staff, Ankara made a decision on establishing safety zones in certain needy regions including the border gates.
The two memos were merged and an extensive text was created. As a contribution to the Syrian opposition forces under the light of the “educate-equip” program, the memo was formed according to the compelling conditions of the region, including the permission of foreign soldiers crossing into the country.
Turkey is trying to shape the developments taking place in the region in complete accordance with its security interests. That the intervention to the region is to be goal-oriented and that it avoids new problems and meets the necessity of its full completion until Syria achieves its stability and observes the sensitivity of the regional public opinion are principles of the program, too.
We have some vital and long-term concerns that these works will be perceived as an occupation or invasion by the Arab public opinion within a negative Turkey image. In fact, the government and the Turkish public opinion must take this into consideration. No matter what the pretext is, any kind of military campaign of the US and western coalition into the region can cause reaction and be confronted with hate.
After leaving this important note, it makes sense to discuss whether yesterday’s memo and safety zone decisions are going to be perceived as such or not. And after that stage, Ankara must really pay attention to this issue and I think it will do so.
The US leaves might leave alone
However, the prospective interpretation of the decisions as I mentioned at the beginning of my article signals a more active participation of Turkey. Whether we like it or not, every development taking place in both countries matters to Turkey. Beyond a matter of interest, it is a threat to the security of Turkey and thus it turns into a kind of vital interest.
It’s a fact that hundreds of thousands of people sought shelter in Turkey. After an extensive military intervention, this number can increase to millions. So, the option is quite a less costly alternative when one considers keeping this huge mass on the other side of the border as a must-be, as well as providing its needs in a region which is protected from all kinds of threats that would otherwise turn against the internal security.
The conditions force Turkey to take unilateral cautions, if needed. The US and western coalition have always kept a distance from Turkey in these kind of situations. They abandoned Turkey and never shared the problems with it. There is such a risk today, too. Hence, there should be nothing bothering Turkey as it takes its own precautions.
Even if Turkey participates in the coalition and gives its support, the American intervention will be temporary. What about after the completion of the operation? It’s high possibility that this opportunity will be used in order to make further steps to achieve permanent cautions.
Comments, analyses and political inclinations are being discussed with all their dimensions. There might be anticipations concerning the future of Iraq and Syria. However, it should be known that the American intervention would not offer any permanent solution in the region. It’s simply a conjectural, temporary and ISIL-restricted, or speaking technically, a “struggle on terror” operation.
The problems in the region will at least take another decade and new organizations will be formed. The future of Syria and Iraq will be merged and new actors will take stage. If ISIL will vanish, new ones will come out. The organization “Khorasan” was created to substitute for ISIL, because this is the way it has always been.
It is useful to assess the decision or the point where Turkey stands not from the view of the coalition but rather from its own view, the particular, private condition of Turkey. If support or criticism is made within this framework, it will be highly realistic.
We may simply re-capture our statement in summary:
Ankara in the Middle East, in particular, in the zone of Iraq and Syria, will be more active and change its traditional position. The significance of this shift is that it took up a military role in addition to its political one in the region.