Turkey weighs military action in Syria

Turkey weighs military action in Syria

Published: Nov. 18, 2011
11/18/2011, Cheshvan 21, 5772

Syrian Muslim Brotherhood: Islamic Intervention OK

Mohammad Riad Shaqfa, a leader of Syria’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, said, Thursday, that the Syrian people would accept military intervention by Turkey, rather than Western countries, in the Damascus government’s violent repression of dissent. Shaqfa told a news conference in Istanbul, “If the international community procrastinates then more is required from Turkey as a neighbor to be more serious than other countries to handle this regime.” Headded, “If other interventions are required, such as air protection, because of the regime’s intransigence, then the people will accept Turkish intervention. They do not want Western intervention.”

Shaqfa said that the international community could isolate the government of President Bashar Al-Assad by removing its diplomats from Damascus. He also praised the Free Syrian Army, led by defecting troops, for its attack, Wednesday, on a base near Damascus.

Turkish Cabinet discusses Syria attacks, paid military service

Cabinet also discussed the details of the much-debated topic of the possible introduction of a military service exemption scheme. 

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan convened Cabinet on Monday to discuss pressing issues dominating the country’s agenda, including recent attacks against Turkish diplomatic missions in Syria and plans to allow potential draftees to pay a certain of money in lieu of performing compulsory military service.

The meeting began in the morning at the Prime Ministry building in Ankara.

Among the issues discussed was the policy to followed against the neighboring country of Syria in the wake of attacks on the weekend on the Turkish embassy in Damascus and consulates in the cities of Aleppo and Latakia.

Supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad tried to break into the Turkish embassy and other consulates on Saturday to denounce an Arab League decision to suspend Syria’s membership over its crackdown of an eight-month uprising. Turkey is not a member of the league but had welcomed the decision.

Cabinet also discussed the details of the much-debated topic of the possible introduction of a military service exemption scheme.

Compulsory military service has been a contentious issue in Turkey, which has been fighting PKK for decades, and is mandatory for all healthy men in Turkey.

The length of service depends on one’s level of education as well as the military’s needs at the time. Currently, university graduates with a four-year degree serve either for six months as a private or a year as a second lieutenant, depending on what is needed; those who do not have a four-year bachelor’s degree are obliged to fulfill 15 months of military service.

Latest developments in the wake of two earthquakes that hit the eastern province of Van were also discussed during the Cabinet meeting. More than 600 people died after earthquakes of magnitude 7.2 and magnitude 5.6 hit the province on Oct. 23 and on Nov. 9, respectively.


Arab World: Contemplating intervention in Syria

11/17/2011 23:25 

With diplomatic efforts at a dead end, some experts are advocating military action to stem the bloodshed.

Monday was Syria’s bloodiest day, this was its bloodiest week and November is set to be its bloodiest month yet. The mounting body count – at least 70 people were killed Monday, 100 this week and 300 so far this month – has returned Syria to the top of nightly newscasts and the editorial pages of the world’s leading broadsheets.

Diplomatic efforts to end the eight-month counterinsurgency have foundered. Last week the Arab League proposed a peace plan that would see the Bashar Assad government withdraw its troops from Syria’s cities, release political prisoners and begin dialogue with the opposition. Assad agreed to the plan but did nothing, leading the normally cautious Arab League to take the extraordinary step of suspending Syria, a founding member, from the 22- member bloc.

Veto-wielders Russia and China have thus far scuttled US-led attempts at UN Security Council sanctions, which even if enacted are unlikely to significantly change Syria’s conduct. Most analysts now agree that drastic steps will be necessary to end eight months of carnage.

Few policy-makers in Washington, London or Paris seem to have the stomach for yet another Mideast entanglement. America is withdrawing all troops from Iraq by year’s end, Afghanistan is a seemingly intractable mess and National Atlantic Treaty Organization forces rushed to quit Libya as soon as practicable after Muammar Gaddafi’s capture.

Nor does international public opinion seem amenable to another military foray into a volatile Muslim country, particularly when such an adventure is certain to provoke that country’s chief patron – the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said Western officials are slowly growing more receptive to a military option in Syria, though at the moment an actual intervention remains a distant prospect. For now, Satloff recommended the US work with regional countries to set up “humanitarian zones” along Syria’s border to help absorb civilians fleeing the violence.

“I’m not today urging the government to bomb military bases in Syria because I don’t think the public is ready for it. But I do think there would be receptivity to humanitarian protection,” he said.

From a purely strategic perspective, Satloff said, Syria is of far greater value to Western interests than Libya. “Change in Syria will not only protect the Syrian people from mass killings, but will be a huge strategic victory in the battle for influence with Iran, whereas the regional implications of the Libya crisis were virtually nil,” he said.

“Assad has learned some lessons from Gaddafi, who was foolish enough to say, ‘I’ll kill them like rats wherever I find them.’ Assad gives the public face of continuing to promise change and reform, while continuing to kill 20 people a day instead of 500. It’s a slow drip of death.”

Jeffrey White, a defense fellow at the Washington Institute, said sanctions alone are unlikely to unseat Assad, a Londontrained eye doctor who was at one time courted by the West as a possible reformer.

“I don’t think economic sanctions – or diplomatic or political pressure – will do the job. To change the regime will require some application of brute military force – either from the internal forces or with some kind of outside help,” White said.

“The regime is continuing its very bloody repression of any dissent. The armed opposition is growing stronger and better organized, and has started to take on regime forces and to inflict casualties on them,” he said. ”That dynamic will in and of itself lead to greater violence and a greater challenge to the regime. Whether or not the West intervenes, violence will in all likelihood increase.”

Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said that even if Russian and Chinese opposition is overcome and the Security Council condemns Damascus, political and economic sanctions will have little to no impact.

“Beyond the symbolic, sanctions on Syria will have little effect for two reasons. First, Syria doesn’t really have enough trade with the industrialized world to matter. After years of Assad dictatorships, it really has a pygmy economy. Second, even if sanctions could be effective, Syria has pressure valves in Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon and, after December 31, 2011, Iranian-influenced Iraq,” Rubin said by e-mail, referring to the US troop withdrawal deadline. After that date, he said, “any military action would become far more complicated because, with American troops gone, Iran will have a much easier time with overland resupply of Assads regime through Iraq.”

“Military intervention along the Libyan model could be successful. Syria is not a strong country. Frankly, once the Syrian military figured out the West was serious – after the first couple Predator strikes, for example – the biggest uncertainty might be which general would stage the coup, because they would all be rushing to sacrifice Bashar to protect themselves,” he said. “I think any outbreak of full-scale civil war would be headed off by a preemptive coup. Many of the generals simply have too much to lose. When they look over the precipice and see what awaits them, they’d be much more likely to see in Bashar a sacrificial lamb. Perhaps they will see straighter than the Western-educated ophthalmologist.”


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For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
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