Continuous Turkish artillery barrage cuts out 10-km buffer strip inside Syria

Akçakale, Turkey (DebkaFile) –  Constrained from a substantial military incursion into Syria by US President Barack Obama’s veto and Saudi and Qatari refusals to help pay for it, Turkey’s government and military decided to make do with carving out a buffer strip 10 kilometers deep into Syria by continuous artillery barrages.

Several Syrian bases and outposts have been hit so far and a large number of Syrian soldiers killed or wounded. Neither Ankara nor Damascus is offering information on casualties. They have imposed a heavy blackout on events so as to keep them under control and avoid the risk of a full-blown war.

It was the first time in the 18-month Syrian uprising that Turkey had staged military action against Syria.The first Turkish barrage was fired as NATO foreign ministers met in emergency session in Brussels and the UN Security Council in New York condemned Syria. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also harshly condemned the Syrian shelling but did not commit to any action against Syria except to state that Washington stands behind Ankara.

According to our sources, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s hands are tied. When he asked Washington in the last 48 hours whether the Syrian attack would serve as the pretext for imposing a no-fly zone over northern and central Syria with US Air Force participation, the Turkish prime minister encountered a flat refusal.

No war, no cry!

ANKARA, Turkey (Hurriyet OpEd) – “Turkey is not far away from war… prepare war if you wish for peace,” says Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as if Turkey was pushed toward war despite its peaceful efforts. In fact, this is not true; Turkey pushed itself to come close to war because of its Syrian politics. No, it is not only the result of the government’s miscalculations concerning the Syrian process. It is true that the government could not comprehend the complexity of either the situation in Syria or of the regional and world politics in general, but more importantly, Turkey has its own calculations concerning the regime change in Syria.

In fact, the conditions seemed in favor of Turkey’s heavy engagement in the beginning of the process of regime change in Syria. Turkey was eager to have a say in the post-al-Assad Syria and the Western policy encouraged Turkey’s stance. Then everything changed, but Turkey did not change its stance since the stakes were high. Turkey backed the Free Syrian Army as almost its proxy not only because it dreamed to make post-al-Assad Syria its backyard, but also because Turkey is obsessed with controlling Kurds all over the region.

Now the government is using the pretext of a Syrian mortar which killed five civilians in the border town Akçakale to escalate the crises. The government is not avoiding further tension, on the contrary using tension for its political calculations. The passing in Turkish Parliament of a motion allowing the government to engage in military operations beyond its borders is an alarming step toward further confrontations. It was indeed a tragic event, but the political atmosphere in Turkey does not cause anybody to seriously question the responsibility of the governmental politics which encouraged the Free Syrian Army to use the Turkish border as a safe haven. If Turkey was bothered by border clashes for security reasons, it would also warn the Free Syrian Army to keep clashes away from the Turkish border. Forget warning the Free Syrian Army, Turkey is encouraging the militants by all means.

Besides, nobody is willing to discuss the possible eagerness of the Turkish government to use the motion to start military control of northern Kurdish regions of Syria. When the Syrian Kurds took the control of Kurdish-dominated regions of Syria, pro-government analysis openly suggested the government give more support to the Free Syrian Army to stop the Kurds.

It seems that Turkey is considering using any excuse to control northern Syria militarily not in order to deter the al-Assad regime but in order to deter Kurds from gaining autonomy in the north. That is why the nationalist MHP eagerly supported the motion in Parliament. Hence, once more we need to see that the Kurdish question is the key for the future of a peaceful and democratic Turkey, since war at home brings us close to war abroad. Turkey is heading into turbulent times domestically and internationally. In order to stop Turkey from sliding toward authoritarian politics of “war at home, war abroad,” we should stand up against it by all means. No war, no cry!  

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