Erdogan and Obama Speak About Their Syria Policy, While Turkey Begins To Burn
August 1, 2012 • 9:37AM

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a half-hour-plus telephone discussion with U.S. President Barack Obama about Syria, during which they agreed to accelerate efforts for a transition period, which includes the exit of President Bashar al-Assad. But at the same time, the chaos and violence that has been created in Syria is now starting to affect the stability of Turkey itself. With widespread fears of Syria' break-up and the creation of a "Greater Kurdistan," possibly including parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon is now in Istanbul, where he said Syria should remain united. "We don't see for the future of Syria an autonomous Kurdish area or territory. We want to see a Syria that remains united ... we don't support any movement towards autonomy or separatism, which we think would be a slippery slope. We are very clear about that."

Nonetheless, a taste of what will happen if Syria breaks up or Turkey sends troops, is now emerging. In Malatya Province in southeast Turkey, there was a flare-up between Alevi and Sunni communities in a small village, on July 29, when a quarrel between an Alevi family and a Sunni Ramadan drummer almost escalated into a riot, Sunnis surrounding the Alevi family's home and starting to throw stones. The security forces intervened to save the family.

The incident has been taken very seriously, and a delegation of MPs from both the ruling AKP and opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) rushed to the town to calm the situation. An Alevi demonstration sprang up in Ankara, protesting the attack.

Although this province does not border Syria, it is not far from it; there are Alevis in Syria, many of whom have relatives in Turkey, who are threatened by the chaos and violence provoked by the predominantly Sunni and foreign opposition gangs.

Meanwhile in Hakkari province in the southeast, bordering Iraq and Iran, 10,000 Turkish troops have been deployed over the last week against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) operations in the region. On July 29, two Turkish soldiers were killed and ten wounded. The PKK-allied Syrian Kurdish PYD is being supported by Massoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq, which is supposed to be cooperating with Turkey in marshaling the Syrian Kurds against the Damascus government.

Opposition CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who has been spearheading a campaign against Ankara's policy, has another long interview in the usually pro-government daily Today's Zaman in which he charges that Prime Minister Erdogan "does not design the country's foreign policy. This is the problem...the foreign policy followed by the government is imposed by foreign powers and he thinks these powers will support him.... A country must be aware of who has drawn the current borders in the Middle East.... Turkey has become a country which shoots itself in the foot. Imperialist powers don't care about al-Assad or the Syrian people. They have a new Middle East map in their minds. These maps are even published in our papers. Wasn't it known that Syria would be divided into three parts?"