Turks hold cartoons depicting Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as they protest against a possible war with Syria, in Istanbul, Turkey, Thursday, Oct. 4.

Responses to Syrian shelling highlight Turkish-Western divide on conflict

While the US and other Western nations resist being drawn into the fighting in Syria, Turkey is feeling the direct effects of bloodshed and refugees, putting pressure on Ankara to act.

• A daily summary of global reports on security issues.

Turkey has ceased its shelling of Syria in retaliation for a mortar attack that killed Turkish civilians, but the hostilities have laid bare the fact that, despite cooperation so far, the United States and other Western powers have vastly different concerns and goals than Syria's neighbors when it comes to resolving the Syrian conflict.

With a spillover of fighting into Turkish territory a possibility and the growing rebel and refugee presence in eastern Turkey already sowing some discontent among locals, Turkey feels a much greater sense of urgency to bring about a resolution. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been one of the most strident voices of criticism of the Assad regime in Syria, as well as one of the most overt backers of the rebels.

While the US and others have clearly sided with the rebels, their support has been far more careful. 

Turkey's parliamentary resolution yesterday authorizing military offensives into other countries prompted a flurry of alarm among Turks and the international community. Officials from Turkey's ruling party have been quick to issue statements reassuring Turks and the international community that the resolution was only a precaution.

"This is not a resolution that licenses war. If you want security and peace, you must be ready for a fight at all times," Huseyin Celik, a lawmaker and spokesman for the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) said, according to The Wall Street Journal. "There shouldn't be panic as if there's a war at our doorstep."

The US and United Nations have both condemned Syria's initial attack, but not Turkey's retaliation. "From our perspective, the response that Turkey made was appropriate," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said yesterday, according to WSJ. "The intent in sending a very strong message was to deter future aggression."

The UN Security Council "condemned in the strongest terms the shelling by the Syrian armed forces" – a move that required the approval of Russia, which has steadfastly rejected further action against Syria and been reticent to condemn some of its actions.

Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkey Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, writes in a Washington Post commentary that the attack lays bare the stark differences of opinion between the US and Turkey when it comes to Syria. While the US is treading carefully due to impending presidential elections and war fatigue among Americans, Mr. Erdogan sees its limited response as a sign of "indifference," Mr. Cagaptay writes, noting that Erdogan criticized President Obama for "lacking initiative" last month.

This statement could be a harbinger. Erdogan has a penchant for treating foreign leaders as friends — and losing his temper when he thinks his friends have not stood by him. The more Washington looks the other way on Syria, the more upset Erdogan is likely to get over what he sees as Obama’s unwillingness to support his policy.

To the White House, the Syrian crisis has appeared manageable.

U.S. policy holds that a gradual soft landing could be possible in Syria. The hope is that the opposition groups will coalesce and take down the Assad regime, eliminating the need for hasty foreign intervention — an option that Washington fears could cause chaos.

Ankara, however, wants an accelerated soft landing. Particularly with this week’s strikes, Turkey feels the heat of the crisis next door — Erdogan has reason to believe that time is not on his side.

And Burak Bekdil, a columnist for the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News, writes that Turkey feels it has been left to deal with Syria on its own.

Apparently, Turkey is being dragged into a bizarre coalition of the willing for regime change in Syria. It’s bizarre, because Turkey is fast heading to becoming a solo coalition of the willing, with several pats on the shoulder from its Western and Sunni allies. We thought that Turkey would become a regional power, not a regional hit man. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Responses to Syrian shelling highlight Turkish-Western divide on conflict
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today