Barack Obama will disengage the U.S. from the Middle East in military terms to focus on the Pacific, but would like to stay around in political terms, and thus American military involvement in the Syria affair, for example, is not very likely, according to Özdem Sanberk, a senior diplomatic analyst now heading the Ankara-based think tank USAK.
In an interview with the Hürriyet Daily News, which you can read in today’s edition, Sanberk said that could highlight Turkey’s role in the region; one can safely add Israel and Qatar as the other main allies of the U.S. in the Middle East.
Endorsing Sanberk’s analysis, Syrian affairs have started to warm up right after the U.S. presidential elections which had been put on unofficial hold for that reason for almost the last half a year. Bashar al-Assad’s challenge in a Russia Today interview to say that a military intervention might have worldwide consequences was a reply to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s call for a safe exit. But developments in the last few days show that a military foreign intervention is not the only option for the end of his regime. Yet, it could be an opportunity for al-Assad to be able to extend his stay in Damascus as the hero to protect his country against foreign armies.
Despite reinforcement of Turkish troops along the border, the Syrian air force has scaled up its operations in the border town of Rasulayn, opposite Turkey’s Ceylanpınar, where shells started to drop and refugees flood.
And for the first time since 1973, Israeli forces opened fire on Syrian territory (as a warning, they say) on the Golan front. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that his country was ready for every development in Syria and said any assault will be responded to.
In the meantime, Syrian opposition groups have announced that following several day-long meetings – and it seems a lot of arm-twisting by actors including Turkey, France and Qatar – if the Syrian opposition can really manage to work together, then the region could be saved from a large-scale clash which might start a chain reaction.
Of course both the U.S. and European perspective regarding the future of Syria could be much relieved, as Egypt started to settle down to its new system, if Turkey and Israel could be in political dialogue once again. U.S. President Obama knows the terms of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan for normalizing relations; an open Israeli apology for nine Turks killed by Israeli soldiers on their way to break a blockade in Gaza is a must. Israel worked a lot for a losing Obama who resisted an armed intervention in Iran’s nuclear program, but failed and is aware that they have to live with this reality.
An Israeli apology, which is the honorable thing to do and not the end of the world in international politics, might be a key to decreasing tension in the Middle East.
(The writer is a columnist for Hurriyet Daily News, where this article was first published Nov. 12, 2012)