Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Assad's staying power leaves Turkey frustrated and exposed

    Tuesday, May 27, 2014   No comments

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's certain victory in an election next month, derided internationally as a charade, leaves Turkey facing a bitter truth - its assumption of his quick demise was a costly miscalculation.

With al-Qaeda-linked armed groups controlling patches of territory across Turkey's southern border and a registered refugee influx set to top a million within months, Syria's three-year old war presents Ankara with an increasing financial burden and a growing security threat.

A gun battle in March when special forces raided the suspected İstanbul hide-out of a militant group active in Syria highlighted the potential threat to Turkey from the thousands of foreign jihadis who have been drawn into the conflict, a portion of them entering Syria over the Turkish border.

The torching of a building housing Syrian refugees in Ankara this month meanwhile pointed to anger at the growing social and economic costs of a humanitarian response which has already cost Turkey close to $3 billion.

With Assad facing no serious challenger in a June 3 election which his Western and Arab foes, as well as the Syrian opposition, have dismissed as a parody of democracy, such tensions are unlikely to dissipate any time soon.

"We may describe Turkish Syria policy as a mess. We've committed too much, we've talked too big," said Osman Bahadır Dinçer, Syria expert at the Turkish non-partisan thinktank USAK.

"At the very beginning Turkey underestimated the humanitarian problem. Turkey was not prepared and I think the same can be applied to border security."


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