Why is Assad still here? - MERVE ŞEBNEM ORUÇ

Why is Assad still here?

It could have declared a no-fly zone in western Syria and stopped Bashar Assad from bombing his own people. But it didn't. It could have at least sent anti-aircraft to the Syrian opposition groups with which it has direct contact to help them protect themselves and the civilians. But it didn't.

Syrian opposition groups, who manage to fight against the Iranians taking action together with the regime's soldiers and Hezbollah, under the leadership of Qasem Soleimani, as well as their mercenaries – Afghan, Iraqi and other similar Shiite militia – while at the same time continuing their fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), are in a cut-throat battle with everybody. However, airstrikes are a problem. It is these airstrikes along with the barrel bombs that pose the greatest threat to civilians, too. A safe zone established under the no-fly zone would protect both women and children and provide a safe haven for the refugees who Europe doesn't mind entering Turkey as long as “they can't go any further.” Turkey would frequently underline this particularly in its meetings with the U.S. Why has the U.S. persistently turned a blind eye to something that would be understood by even an idiot?

Turkey has on numerous occasions warned the West and the world that unless Assad is stopped, the atrocities of both the regime and extremist organizations like ISIL will continue to increase. Why has this situation, which could be foreseen without even being said, constantly been ignored?

Whenever they spoke to a microphone, U.S. President Barack Obama and other European leaders have said that someone like Assad, who bombs his own people, must go and has no room in the future of Syria. So why are there still no steps taken in this direction?

It was written in international media that in response to Assad's statement, “We have a lack of soldiers, we need to withdraw,” Iranian diplomats told Russia, “Unless you intervene, the regime will collapse and we won't be able to stop it.” It was obvious what would happen shortly when Russia started to build shelters in the west of Syria. By hitting the regions in which the regime's sole enemy, Syrian opposition, have made serious progress in the last six months, Russian jet have been preparing for a ground operation for some time. Also, news that with the units sent by Hezbollah and Iran fighting alongside the Syrian army to gain control over the west of Syria which is under the control of opposition, not ISIL, has been running in the media ever since Russia started its airstrikes. It is clear that Russia, which is in intense diplomacy with countries like the U.S., Saudi Arabia, the UAE started its intervention to sit the opposition at the negotiation table with its own hand strong in order to push them to the transition period protecting the Assad regime's existence.

It is not difficult to guess that the violation of Turkey's airspace by Russian jets and Syria's harassment of Turkish jets are all parts of this plan. This harassment and the violations aimed at getting Turkey to encourage opposition forces in this direction right after the U.S. and Germany deciding to withdraw the Patriots that were positioned in the south of Turkey in 2013 against the threat of Assad is quite thought provoking. Spanish Patriots remain, while NATO stated “we will send new ones in a week if required,” but NATO not having any intelligence prior to the latest developments in Syria is unthinkable.

Considering NATO's statements, following the violation of Turkey's airspace, aimed at provoking Turkey and their track record of not keeping their word as well as the tension in its relationship with Turkey in the last three years, it needs to be seen that there is another pressure on Turkey from the West.

The expression “civil war” is being increasingly used in Turkey to produce a fear in this direction. With the increasing severity of terrorist incidents and polarization, such a probability is not out of the question. However, for a country with a military as strong as Turkey's, chances of a civil war are very slim. Yet, even the existence of such a threat creates pressure not only on politics and the people, but also the military. Ever since the Gezi incidents, a certain segment wanting to be free of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government “no matter how,” is praying for a coup to happen. The state the country is trying to be pushed into for the last two-and-a-half years is quite similar to the process of “waiting for conditions to mature” experienced in Turkey ahead of the previous coups. We are all aware of Duran Kalkan's call to soldiers; we are going through a period in which even top-level PKK figures are giving advice to the soldiers, implying they carry out a “coup.” This is expressed in many ways. For example, Özgür Politika writer Veysi Sarısözen, in a call to the AK Party, wrote last week: “The military is going to carry out a coup. Give up [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan and form a coalition with the [Peoples' Democratic Party] HDP.” Also, former U.S. intelligence employee, Sibel Edmonds said, “Turkey's 'Sissi' is going to oust Erdoğan,” in reference to Hulusi Akar.

I don't think the army will carry out a coup. Turkey is no longer the old Turkey. However, neither the atrocious attack in Ankara, nor the other threats from Syria or their control over the armed forces should be thought of separately from these calls for a coup or the questions we asked earlier in this column.

Eventually the West is going to get rid of Assad. After costing the lives of hundreds of thousands, like a hero, it is going to bring “democracy” to Syria, too. Yet there is a condition before this can happen: Erdoğan needs to go. They are trying to force the people of Turkey, Turkish politics, the army, business world toward this, trying to take them hostage. The Gülen Movement has been long operating like the Gladio in this context; efforts are being made to create Kurd-Turk and Alevi-Sunni conflicts; Turkey is being threatened with “civil war.”

However, the person targeted is not only Turkey's first democratically elected president, but also a symbol, a hope for Muslims worldwide. The campaign against Erdoğan is aiming to force the Muslim world into two alternative extremes, giving no opportunity other than being an extremist armed threat like al-Qaida or a reformist like the Gülenists. This is where everything gets mixed up. Because the man they are taking on represents tens of millions of people. This is the exact reason why Erdoğan does not give up the struggle. Just as we start falling into heedlessness under this pressure making us feel sad, tired, like we can no longer endure, we need to remember this and be more alert.


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