When Turkish jets forced a Damascus-bound passenger plane suspected of carrying non-civilian cargo to land in Ankara, only hours after Turkish chief military commander Necdet Özel vowed to give a “harsher response” to Syria if shelling from the neighboring country continues to spill over the border, it became clearer that Turkey has come even closer to engaging in an open conflict with Syria. For that, it will not even hesitate to poke the eye of Russia, our major trading partner and new-found friend.
Now that war powers are already in place for the government, obtained by its parliamentary majority, there is practically nothing that will stop this government from declaring a war against Syrian regime. Though government officials have emphasized the deterrent strategy of sending Turkish troops across the Syrian border, aiming to dissuade the Syrian regime from further mortar strikes, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made it clear that neither was Turkey far from war.
It was simply unnecessary that at this juncture the war resolution be passed by Parliament when it was enough to exercise Turkey's right to defend its citizens with retaliatory attacks that were measured and limited. The government, under public pressure, needed to act to respond to a Syrian mortar shell that killed five civilians on Oct. 3 in the Turkish border town of Akçakale and it did so by firing back across the border at Syrian artillery battalions held responsible for the attack. But asking for a war mandate was simply an excessive step at this stage.
The government seems to be divided on how far Turkey should take the matter with Syria. The relentless war lobby is after a “fait accompli” to commit the government and the country to a permanent war in Syria, but is afraid of the repercussions of presenting such a plan in the public. Opposition parties are against the risky adventure while the public is overwhelmingly opposed to the notion of the war. I am sure the war lobby would not mind to have a major provocation as a pretext to rally the public behind the conflict with Syria at some point.
The government should keep its moral high ground by continuing to provide sanctuary for over 100,000 refugees that have fled the civil war in Syria. It should keep up harsh criticism of the Assad regime's violent crackdown on its own civilians while lobbying in regional and global platforms to exert pressure on the regime. But why should we play the ram-head in taking down the minority regime in Syria when there is no strong appetite in the international community for facilitating the overthrow? Turkey does not need to be a Don Quixote here.