I was in Istanbul for three days to participate in the Arab-Turkish Dialogue Forum, seeing as Turkey has become an important affair in the Arab world and vice versa. I was not surprise to read the next morning about Bashar al-Assad’s interview with Turkey's Halk TV. Assad threatened Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he will pay a heavy price for supporting those he called fanatic “terrorists.”
I agree with Assad that Erdogan will be paying a heavy price, but for a different reason; he will pay because he did not adopt a broader policy to intervene in Syria, especially that the war has reached the extent of threatening Turkey’s security and not only the its interests.
Turkey’s dangerous prospects
However, the government of Ankara instead used verbal threats and showed little support for the rebels. We now have in Syria three dangerous possibilities for the Turkish state. The first is that Syria will be controlled by extremists such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Nusra Front, which are both affiliated to al-Qaeda. Then, Turkey will be a target for them, as it is the first neighboring country in the NATO alliance and a base for the Americans.
Arab Islamists, including Syrians who are resorting to Turkey today, do not hold any common ground with the Turkish ruling Islamic party.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
The second possibility is that the regime will win the war in Syria and thus support radical Turkish opposition groups such as the PKK, which is usually responsible for terrorist operations against the Turkish government. There is an old and strong relationship between the PKK and Assad’s regime, which supported the party for thirty years, and is currently using it to fight against Syrian Kurds and others. The third possibility is that Syria will drown into chaos and civil war, and thus both al-Qaeda and the PKK will attack Turkey.
The limited policy, through which Turkey is supporting the Syrian opposition, will not help either of them to be victorious: of course Assad will not fall and Turkey is not protected. Turkey is the bordering country that can change the situation in Syria through the support of moderate opposition and not extremist groups, which would constitute a heavy burden for the Turkish regime. It is no secret that many are accusing Ankara of being silent on extremist groups that are sending men and support to Syria through the Turkish territories. These are the groups that have caused a terrible setback for the Syrian revolution; they are currently serving Assad’s regime, whether intentionally or as a result of their extremist political project against the civil state.
Turkey is a moderate and advanced Islamic state model that has nothing to do with the groups raising its flags only because it supports them! They will not build a modern Syria, but rather they will establish a state of chaos and war. If Turkey insists on supporting Islamists, it should then be looking for groups that have the same ideology and structure.
Arab Islamists, including Syrians who are resorting to Turkey today, do not hold any common ground with the Turkish ruling Islamic party. The financial and military support is not important alone: what is more important is to choose wisely the men whom Turkey will be counting on in the future.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Oct. 6, 2013.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.