By Arab News
By Tariq Alhomayed
For over a year the question has been: When will Turkey establish a buffer zone in Syria?
This question was not the result of delusions or dreams, but based on statements from Turkey issued prior to the massacres — that’s right, massacres — committed by Assad in all off Syria’s rebellious cities and towns. (Turkish Prime Minister) Erdogan previously announced that Ankara would not accept a repeat of the massacre committed by Assad the father in Hama; however Assad the son has committed his own massacres — plural — without any real Turkish movement against Assad!
When we say that there has been no real Turkish movement against Assad, this is for a number of realistic reasons; Assad’s massacres are ongoing, not to mention the ethnic cleansing that is taking place in Homs, indeed the situation has even reached the point where Assad has targeted the Turkish border, with mines and gunfire. Assad regime forces have also strongly infiltrated a number of other areas, some of which have been announced publicly and others not.
We must also not forget the abduction of Syrian defector Lt. Col. Hussein Harmoush from Turkish soil, with the Syrian defector being handed over to the Assad regime under mysterious circumstances. In addition to this, there was the incident in which 2 Syrian refugees were killed on Turkish soil; therefore the question that must be asked here is not will Turkey establish a buffer zone in Syria, but rather has Assad set up a buffer zone in Turkey?
The Turkish silence on Assad’s transgressions, not just the transgressions against the people of Syria, but also his transgressions against Turkish sovereignty, is puzzling. Assad represents a genuine threat to Turkish security, not just in terms of the flow of Syrian refugees into the country, but also due to the fact that Assad is carrying out the worst crimes in democratic Turkey’s neighboring Syria. This is something that represents a genuine threat to Turkish security, which is something that Ankara must prevent. The Saudis, for example, forced Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave power, under the umbrella of the Gulf initiative, when Riyadh found that the Yemeni people had reached breaking point because of his rule. Prior to this, the Saudis also had no choice but to confront the Houthi rebels’ aggression against Saudi territory. Therefore the question that must be asked here is: What is Turkey waiting for today with regards to all the crimes that are being committed by Assad, not to mention his blatant aggression towards Turkish sovereignty? Are the Turks waiting for Assad to establish a buffer zone within Turkey, rather than Ankara establishing a buffer zone in Syria? I am not being sarcastic here, for we saw Walid Muallem in Moscow arrogantly accuse the Turks of harboring “armed gangs” and “terrorists”, so when will Ankara address Assad’s aggression and crimes? That is the question!
The truth is that what is required from Ankara today is not for the Turks to unilaterally intervene in Syria, for Turkey’s fears in this regard are justified, particularly as they do not want to be viewed as aggressors or as if the Ottomans have come again. Rather what is required from Turkey, and particularly Erdogan, is to seek to establish a coalition of the willing — in the event that the United Nations (UN) fails — in order to put an end to Assad’s crimes which represent a genuine threat to Turkish security, as well as to put an end to the Assad regime’s attacks on the Turkish border. Saudi Arabia did the same thing when it liberated Kuwait from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq; Riyadh fought a political and military battle in this regard and prior to this a media battle as well. So what is Erdogan or Turkey waiting for today? Are they waiting for Assad to establish a buffer zone within Turkey itself? This is truly puzzling!
The author is editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Write to him at [email protected]