April 10, 2012 § 1 Comment
I haven’t blogged much about Turkey and Syria despite the increasingly heated rhetoric being directed at Assad on Turkey’s part because I still don’t see anything changing the basic fact that Turkey wants to avoid having to establish a buffer zone in Syria at any cost. The shooting over the border by Syrian forces is a serious issue for Turkey, and the new word is that Turkey might establish a buffer zone if Syria massacres civilians that are gathering in camps near Aleppo or if another 25,000 refugees cross into Turkey, both of which are a pretty high threshold to overcome and still do not guarantee that Turkey will actually create a buffer zone inside Syria. The border violation by Syria puts Turkey in a real bind, because Ankara is not going engage in open hostilities with Syrian forces over the killing of two Syrian refugees and the wounding of others inside Turkey’s territory, but to not do so essentially lets Assad call Erdoğan’s bluff and keep on pushing the line further and further. Turkey desperately wants an international solution here, explaining Erdoğan’s blasting of the U.N. and the foreign ministry deriding Kofi Annan’s ceasefire plan as irrelevant, which Turkey hopes will spur stronger action against Syria so that it will not have to back up its noise about taking matters into its own hands. The bottom line here is that Turkey prematurely floated rumors of a buffer zone never intending to actually have to set one up, and now its bluff is being called in a big way. That does not change the fact that Turkey does not actually want to have to send its troops into Syria and risk becoming entangled in a hot war with Assad’s forces, and absent Syria shelling the Turkish border and killing a significant number of Turks, I still maintain that a buffer zone is not going to happen. The Turkish foreign ministry can float as many stories as it wants in Zaman and Milliyet of behind the scenes discussions regarding a buffer zone, but it’s just not in Turkey’s interests to do so, and I’ll believe it is going to happen when I see actual troop deployments taking place. Until then, my prediction will remain unchanged.