Panic Attack-1 In The Turbulence Over Syria – OpEd


By Ihsan Bal

Where the crisis in Syria is concerned, we seem to be getting mixed up over everything and employing all sorts of facts which have no causal link with each other and so we are slipping into a kind of panic. The Syrian equation shows how wrong it can be to make a judgement when clinging to half-truths.

What we need above all is not to panic but to use our heads. The chaotic circumstances in Syria which for a while have been getting steadily more violent have now hit full-scale turbulence. The greatest possible mistake while we are going through this turbulence would be to panic and act on the basis of mistaken ideas.

But, if we proceed with knowledge and clear vision, then we will be able to discover reasonable responses to some of the problems we face in Syria.

Syria is living through a bloody period which it would be correct to describe as civil war. In these chaotic circumstances, around two million Syrian Kurds who live in the north of the country and are located in three separate regions would like to place their demands for the post-Assad period on the record. This is because throughout the history of modern Syria they have been unable to obtain any of their rights and they have been virtually ignored.

Syria - Turkey Relations
Syria – Turkey Relations

So then, what the evil scenario which is leading us to panic? It is that by becoming an effective political actor, the PYD (Patriotic Democratic Party) might exacerbate the terrorism of the PKK and generate a security risk for Turkey. Abdullah Bedro, the chief of the Bedro clan in Kamishli, who is known to have given his support to the Syrian opposition, has spoken of “certain persons who come here in a pre-planned fashion, with guns in their hands, and claiming to be the masters here,” and in saying this he has drawn attention to the support given by the Syrian regime to the PKK.

From this, the idea has spread around that an independent Kurdish state has more or less been established inside Syria and that all the Kurds in that country have become opponents of Turkey.

The future of Syria is completely unclear. Forget the demands of its Kurds for independence, although people talk abut the PYD having close relations with the PKK, it has in fact made no mention of an independent Kurdish state.

Turkey has made it clear that wants to stand in support of the Syrian people in this upheaval, and so of course it is completely natural that when it comes to the Kurds of Syria, it wants an improvement in their human rights, in democracy and equitable distribution. In other words, what the Syrian Kurds gain is not a loss for Turkey. What matters here is to limit the amount of support that terrorism is receiving and for Turkey to come out against it.

The Barzani Factor

Then there is the Barzani factor in the equation which has to be put in its proper place. Barzani might want to be the leader of the Kurds. He may want to push towards the Mediterranean. He may dream of a Greater Kurdistan. But the main preconditions for all these things. But the first precondition for that is for Barzani to be able to administer his own people in happiness, prosperity, and security And for that he has to cooperate closely with at least of the regional political actors.

Barzani has burnt his bridges with the government in Baghdad and so he has distanced himself from his former protector, Iran, but when one notes that 77% of his commercial and economic relations are with Turkey, it is apparent that he is obliged to link his wishes and purposes rationally with the resources and alliances that he does have. So it would be more realistic to say Turkey is more a source of hope for Barzani than Barzani is for Turkey.

To conclude: if it is misleading to say that Turkey has come up against a wall in Syria, it is equally irrelevant to try to make sense of the Kurdish problem by linking it to the current turbulence inside Syria. In my next article, I am going to discuss how the situation can be managed without giving in to fear of either the ‘Sevres Syndrome” or the “Kurdish monster.”

Ihsan Bal
Head of USAK Science Committee

This article was first published in Habertürk newspaper on 28 July.


JTW - the Journal of Turkish Weekly - is a respected Turkish news source in English language on international politics. Established in 2004, JTW is published by Ankara-based Turkish think tank International Strategic Research Organization (USAK).

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