Turkey could burn its fingers in Syria

The ongoing Turkish military intervention in Syria, sending in tanks and fighter planes backed by US military help on ground and in the air, has more at stake for US than Turkey. All this seems to be a step in the wake of gains made by Syrian troops backed by Russian military and air power to push back the rebels fighting Bashar al- Assad´s forces. The beneficial outcome of the war for US and Russia can be anybody´s guess but the fact remains that Syria is razed to ground with unprecedented damage done to Syrian citizens and property.

Turkish main objective, as officially reported, is the removal of Assad regime, a dire need to fulfill superpower docket and Kurdish militants in northern Syria a severe pain putting Turkey in an uncomfortable and tense situation. The ´Euphrates Shield´ operation dragging Turkey in the fray could be a costly affair in men and material with huge political ramifications for Erdogan´s ruling party. Kurdish problem will continue to create ripples till Turkey with other stakeholders forges an entente to find a political solution acceptable to all factions.

Russia uses its formidable military might to back Assad regime full throttle to secure his political powerbase and the government making its foothold in the Middle East firm and impregnable. Syria finding a ´good friend´ in Russia is worrisome and disturbing for both Israel and US. Under the circumstances, it is very convenient to involve and engage Turkey in a war with no end in sight with potential devastating economic and political implications. It is noteworthy that in the recent Israeli forest fires threatening Haifa, Turkish fighters with Russia, Greece, Italy and other friendly nations took the lead role in extending help in fire-fighting efforts.

Turning the pages of history, we learn about Iran-Iraq war from September 1980 to August 1988 when over half a million Iraqi and Iranian soldiers with an equivalent number of innocent civilians were consumed. The war started by Iraq provided overt and covert support with technological aid and intelligence by US was aimed to keep both Iran and Iraq away from Soviet influence. The eight year war left both countries with a dent in economy, noticeable effect in military strength, lassitude and exhaustion.

US had sensed Saddam Hussein´s ambition to lead the Arab world as Saddam even ventured to shoot some obsolete Scud missiles into Israel; most of the missiles did not even explode. Saddam, a bellicose tyrant, became a threat ´in the region´ and needed to be reined in. The lady ambassador of US to Iraq April Catherine Glaspie, a shrewd diplomat encouraged naive Saddam Hussain to make the suicidal blunder to invade Kuwait violating the internationally recognized border.

And to this effect Ambassador Glaspie told Saddam Hussain "We can see that you have deployed massive numbers of troops in the south. Normally that would be none of our business, but when this happens in the context of your threats against Kuwait, then it would be reasonable for us to be concerned. For this reason, I have received an instruction to ask you, in the spirit of friendship — not confrontation — regarding your intentions: Why are your troops massed so very close to Kuwait's borders?"

Saddam Hussain, a sovereign ruler exercising his power oppressively and despotically had his rug pulled from under his feet, had no weapons of mass destruction and his imposing army had already lost firepower during Iran-Iraq war. Hussain caught on the back foot was outmanoeuvred losing his government and his life in the end. His country turned upside down will perhaps take few centuries to come back to a normal state. Saddam could never have imagined his life coming to a brutal end on December 30, 2006. Interestingly enough, Chris Maume wrote in The Independent (June 12, 2014) that "It was better to live in Iraq under Saddam as for now the country has begun to slip into anarchy, but it wasn’t always like this. It used to be a much happier and safer place to live".

Turkey´s downing of Russian warplane last year and now crossing international border to make some territorial gains in Kurd areas under Syrian control, many believe are fraught with great risk. An attempt to offer tactical and military support to rebels fighting Syrian forces, Turkey, perhaps needs to learn from Iraq, Libya, Iran and Syrian experiences. Turkey already faced with economic sanctions imposed by Russia is also deeply affected by Syrian Kurdish territorial gains and resurgence of insurgency by encouraged Turkish Kurds.

President Tayyip Erdogan recently survived a military Coup D’etat in July this year and is still recovering from the shock while struggling to keep away elements of Turkish Armed Forces staging the Coup. Though many thousands were punished, thousands more put behind bars and many thousands thrown out of the key posts in the Erdogan government. But it seems the job is far from over and his democratically elected government needs more time to secure its institutions to weed out forces disgruntled and averse to the concept of democracy. In the light of above, President Erdogan can simply not afford to indulge in some military adventure involving superpowers.

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