- By Abu Anas
The Turkish armed forces struck a Syrian military government building yesterday, Wednesday, close to the city of Tal Abyad in the Syrian province of ar-Raqqa. This move came in retaliation to the shelling of the Turkish city of Akcakale, situated near the Syrian border, by Assad army loyalists earlier that day, which killed two women and three children.1 The Syrian government later apologized to the Turks through their UN representative as was confirmed by Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Beşir Atalay.2 Today, the Turkish parliament ratified a mandate that allows the government to undertake acts of war to secure Turkey’s borders.3 The question at hand is: Will Turkey invade Syria due to this skirmish?
Turkey, alongside with the US, will create an excuse to intervene militarily in Syria if the Assad regime collapses or nears its collapse while the opposition still threatens its vital interests in the region. Turkey is a US ally, and will not invade Syria unless given the greenlight by it. The Obama administration is now going through presidential elections, so it will not engage in such a venture, and hence nor will Turkey. On a much closer look we see that the Turkish parliamentary mandate was indirect; granting permission for military operations in “foreign countries” instead of firmly enacting a response towards Syria specifically. In addition, Mr. Atalay clearly stated that, “This is not a war mandate. It is a measure for deterrence.”3
The shelling of the Turkish town by the regime was either intentional or a mistake. Assuming that it was a mistake, then domestic implications for the Erdogan government would explain this limited response. Mr. Erdogan’s party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), has a coalition with the nationalists within parliament, any inaction on his part will render him as a weak leader who cannot secure Turkey’s borders. Additionally, his parties’ Islamist base is fed up with his lip service towards supporting their Muslim brothers in Syria. On the other hand, if this was intentional, then the Syrian government’s objective would be to use such skirmishes to threaten widening the conflict into a regional one for the sole purpose of putting pressure upon Ankara due to its limited hosting of the Free Syrian Army.
However, The Assad regime knows very well that the US and its ally Turkey has been in support of a resolution to this conflict which will secure its future existence, and therefore, it will not risk escalating the regional tensions into an all-out war. Up and until the US reaches an arrangement which will continue to secure Syria within its hegemony and provide a safe exist to Assad and his family, Turkey will continue to block the transfer of necessary weapons to the rebels that prevents them from demolishing the regime.4