There is no such thing called north Syria, said Ahmed Uglo, the Turkish foreign affairs minister. He continued: “There is only a 900 km borderline adjacent to Turkey starting from Qamashli to Latakia.”
The ‘North Syria scarecrow’ reminded me of the time when Assad hated Yasser Arafat and refused to receive him despite all mediation. The two were involved in war of words when Assad described Palestine as west of Syria to emphasize his power on Arafat. Arafat responded by saying that it is Syria that is north of Palestine.
Damascus always went beyond its controversial statements against Arafat to help anti-Arafat groups such as Hamas and Al-Jihad al-Islami in a bid to threaten Arafat.
The Turks now feel the threat of Assad’s upcoming plan to tear Syria apart and create regional chaos. They said they are observing activities by Kurdistan Workers’ Party who have built militant bases in the north of Syria.
They have now realized their mistake by giving Assad such a long time until he managed to prepare his legacy; a divided Syria and an unstable region. This is why Turkey has moved its forces toward the borders and it is likely to enter into a war, eventually. Among all the countries, Turkey alone realized its mistakes in handling the Syrian revolution. When they failed to convince Assad to contain the protests, they were left with two options: Support Assad to suppress the protests or help protesters to overthrow the regime.
Staying neutral was the worst choice. Despite the fact that they clearly expressed their compassion with the Syrian people, the Turks avoided any involvement in the Syrian crisis except giving help to the refugees. They later granted the opposition a center of command in Istanbul and opened ways for rebels to communicate with outside.
The long time given to Assad allowed him to plan against his neighbors. He used organizations to scare his opponents. The Syrian regime is expert in the game of terrorist groups since the seventies. This regime used to build camps for groups of all kinds, Palestinian, Shiite, Turk Kurdish, Iraqi Kurdish and Iraqis. It used Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the Kurdish Workers’ Party against Turkey, Abu Nedhal’s group against Yasser Arafat and Jordan, and used Ahmed Jebreel, leader of Jabha Shabiya to kill Palestinians. The regime hosted “Dawa” Party and used it against Saddam Hussain. It turned “Amal” and “Hezbollah” against each other and against the Palestinians.
The regime also resurrected the Syrian National Party, recruited Sunnis in it and used them in Lebanon against other Sunnis.
There was a time when the Syrian regime used Yemeni separatist groups in Sanaa. This very regime allied with Al-Qaeda to use them in Iraq. The Syrian regime employed Fath Al-Islam in Naher Al-Bared in Lebanon. The list is very long and terrifying. I don’t know any regime in Middle East that employs politics and terrorist groups like the Syrian regime.
This regime used to terrify all his neighbors except Turkey, which once taught Hafez Assad, the father then, a lesson. When Assad saw Turkey’s tanks coming toward his borders, he messaged the then US President Bill Clinton, complaining about the Turk’s attempts to invade his country.
Clinton replied that he understood the Turks’ anger. Assad then retreated and Abdullah Öcalan ended up in a Turkish prison. The Turks left the Syrian regime struggling with the revolution knowing it will lose eventually. It was a right decision except that Assad was able to export his problem to others including Turkey. This is why Assad continued fighting. He wanted longer time to destroy Syria and divide the opposition. He tried to use Syrian Kurds to separate and called Turkish Kurds to take over parts of the northern areas next to Turkey.
This regime worked hard on involving the Christians, Alawites and Druze in the Sunnis blood. This regime played well the sectarian conflicts in Lebanon during the past four decades. Now it wants to turn Syria into another Lebanon. The Turks’ mistake was that it did not put extra weight with the opposition to immediately overthrow the regime. They are the only party that can play a role and had Assad been removed last year, many problems would have been avoided.
The writer is the General Manager of Al Arabiya. The article was published in the Saudi-based Arab News on Aug. 3, 2012