Intervention scenarios

Since last week, there have been reports in the international press — especially from the US and Britain — about a potential Turkish military intervention into Syria. The reports have naturally provoked heated debate in Turkey.

As the general election is approaching, some people have instinctively thought that this has something to do with the election and about the governing Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) alleged plans to control the results. According to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the AK Party will lose a considerable number of votes on June 7 compared with the last general election. Turkey will even have to create a coalition government after the election, they claim. So a number of spokespeople from the opposition say the government has decided to postpone the election and the only way to achieve this is to drag the country into a war.

I don’t know if there are people within the governing party crazy enough to do that, but honestly, it is not easy to imagine that anyone would seriously consider starting a war just to win an election.

Besides, nowadays in Syria, the opposition groups are being reorganized. A number of divergent groups are trying to form something they call the “Army of Conquest.” The latter will not only try to overthrow the Assad regime in Damascus but also fight the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). We don’t know yet, of course, if the Army of Conquest — should they manage to win the fight — will be able to preserve its unity and build a new Syria. Anyway, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are supporting this force, and it apparently represents large segments of the Syrian opposition. By the way, the US is continuing to support the Free Syrian Army.

All these developments on the opposition front in Syria tell us that no foreign player wants to get directly involved in Syria’s civil war, and they all hope that local groups will deal with the matter.

As far as Turkey is concerned, one can’t say that Ankara hasn’t had enough excuses until now to intervene militarily into Syria if it had wanted to. Ankara could have easily used the Kobani incidents, the bomb attacks in the border region or the Suleyman Shah tomb incident as a pretext. The downing of a Turkish fighter jet by Syrian forces in June 2012 would also have been enough justification for Turkey to launch a military operation if it so chose.

In other words, Turkey already had a number of reasons to intervene in Syria moreover, Turkey’s allies had wanted it to intervene. But Turkey didn’t intervene at all, so why would it do so now? What could happen that would be worse than any of the aforementioned incidents that could provoke a military response from Turkey?

It is quite interesting that the moment military maneuvers began along Turkey’s borders with Syria, the Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Ozel took 15 days of medical leave to undergo a minor operation. Who knows, maybe there are disagreements between the government and the army’s leadership about an eventual intervention in Syria. Maybe one of them is asking for an intervention while the other is opposed to it. Or maybe there is nothing to worry about but some people are using this event to create confusion among the public and make the governing party lose more votes.

One must think of other reasons that might satisfactorily explain the military activity along the border regions, as the prime minister categorically denies that there are preparations to intervene in Syria. Are these preparations a precaution ahead of the election and their eventual results? Maybe this has nothing to do with a foreign operation after all, and the army is just getting ready for a worst case, post-election scenario in southeast Turkey.