— The Erimtan Angle —

In the Washington Post, Alice Fordham remarks that the “U.S. and Turkish governments on Sunday discussed sending non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition, a move that could represent an incremental change in U.S. policy but comes as Syrian authorities seem to be regaining control of the country. After a meeting on the sidelines of a summit in South Korea, President Obama and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey told reporters that they agreed on the importance of preventing more bloodshed in Syria, where for more than a year the government of President Bashar al-Assad has battled an uprising. The two leaders considered channeling medical and communications equipment to the opposition, according to a U.S. spokesman”.[1]  In Turkey, on the other hand, the pro-government Today’s Zaman stresses that the “two leaders held a long discussion on Sunday before an international nuclear security summit in the South Korean capital of Seoul”.[2]  The operative phrase being “a long discussion”, which some sources describe as 2 hours and fifteen minutes and others as one-and-a-half hours. . . Turkey’s new-found stature as a pseudo-Ottoman regional power still continues to fill the local press with pride. Calling Erdoğan “outstanding partner”, President Obama declared that “We worked on a common agenda in terms of how we can support both humanitarian efforts . . . and the efforts of Koffi Annan to bring about much needed change”. The Turkish PM, in turn, stated that “As people with consciences, we cannot remain spectators and we must do something [about Syria] via international law”.[3]

But then there are who say that Turkey and the U.S. have already been ‘doing something’ for quite some time.[4]  In spite of Obama and Erdoğan’s rather peaceful words, Ausama Monajed, spokesman for the prominent Syrian National Council opposition group, is unequivocal in his tone and demands: Assad “has to step down, pull his troops and militias from the occupied cities, towns and villages, release political prisoners, allow peaceful demonstrations. Then we can negotiate with his deputy. There’s no meaning for negotiations without that”.[5]  In other words, the name of the game seems to be regime change rather than peaceful solution . . . On 1 April, Turkey will host a ‘Friends of Syria meeting that would include opposition groups, along with senior officials from nations supportive of them’. As reported by the AP: a ‘so-called “Friends of Syria” meeting of nations that seek Assad’s downfall, planned for April 1 in Istanbul, runs the risk of yielding just another bout of handwringing over the government crackdown in Syria. The United Nations says more than 8,000 people have been killed in the yearlong uprising, but international horror over the shelling of the city of Homs has already started to fade. Analysts suggested Assad, though weakened, still holds the initiative, partly because Russia and China have shielded Syria from U.N. action’.[6]

On his way to Korea, Erdoğan told Turkish reporters that “We may take a step towards cutting our ties [with Syria] at any time. The Foreign Ministry is currently working on that. I can say that we have very little diplomatic presence remaining in Syria”.[7]  While he was saying these words, the Turkish embassy in Damascus was being vacated, leaving only a small Turkish consulate in Aleppo as the sole diplomatic presence of Turkey in Assad’s country, as reported by AFP. An anonymous Turkish diplomatic source declared that “[a]ctivities at the Turkish embassy have been suspended from this morning”.[8]  Behind the scenes, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are said to have been arming the opposition all along while actively importing Islamist fighters to oppose the Assad regime . . .


[1] Alice Fordham, “Obama, Turkish leader discuss non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels” The Washington Post (26 March 2012). http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/obama-discusses-non-lethal-aid-to-syrian-rebels/2012/03/25/gIQAbwaVaS_story.html.

[2] “Erdoğan, Obama discuss Syria in detail, agree to send aid to opposition” Today’s Zaman (25 March 2012). http://www.todayszaman.com/news-275401-erdogan-obama-discuss-syria-in-detail-agree-to-send-aid-to-opposition.html.

[3] “Erdoğan, Obama discuss Syria in detail, agree to send aid to opposition”.

[4] “Syria, Turkey, and Libya: Exporting Revolution and Resuscitating Awakenings???” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (17 February 2012). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/syria-turkey-and-libya-exporting-revolution-and-resuscitating-awakenings/.

[5] Alice Fordham, “Obama, Turkish leader discuss non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels”.

[6] “With no int’l consensus, Turkey and allies run out of options on how to stop Syria’s Assad” AP (21 March 2012). http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/with-no-intl-consensus-turkey-and-allies-run-out-of-options-on-how-to-stop-syrias-assad/2012/03/21/gIQAJhM6QS_story.html.

[7] “Erdoğan, Obama discuss Syria in detail, agree to send aid to opposition”.

[8] “Turkey shuts embassy in Damascus: diplomat” AFP (26 March 2012). http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Turkey+shuts+embassy+Damascus+diplomat/6357986/story.html.

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