Turkey chaos following coup attempt leaves Assad as big winner

Turkish authorities have suspended or detained around 50,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers since the coup attempt, according to the latest Reuters tally on Wednesday.

July 20, 2016 08:01
2 minute read.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO)


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The Turkish government’s massive crackdown on opponents and those alleged to be involved in the failed coup has left the country’s military and institutions weaker and less able to play a large role in toppling Syria’s regime.

Turkish authorities have suspended or detained around 50,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers since the coup attempt, according to the latest Reuters tally on Wednesday.

“This is probably the weakest the Turkish military has ever been in the history of the Turkish republic,” Dr. Aykan Erdemir, a member of the Turkish parliament from 2011 to 2015 and a senior fellow at the Washington- based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Business Insider website.

Turkey’s domestic situation and its 180-degree turn toward a more realistic and accommodating foreign policy, which includes efforts to repair relations with Israel, Russia and even Syria and Iraq, likely means a less aggressive Syria policy.

Therefore, at least in the near term, there is little chance that Turkey would launch a large-scale military operation or act too aggressively and upset the Russian and Syrian governments.

Yunus Akbaba, an adviser to Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that the measures the government is taking now “are a matter of survival.”

Regarding Syria, he said, “Turkey had already softened its position and was ready for a political transition in which Assad would go at the end of the process.”

Turkey wants to see a new constitution and fair elections under UN auspices, said the Turkish official.

Asked about a possible major Turkish intervention, Akbaba played down any chance of that happening. “Turkey was never a fan of intervention by itself. That’s why we called on the international community to take coordinated actions, but it seems quite impossible in the current situation.”

Questioned about Western pressure on Turkey to ease the crackdown of those accused of supporting the coup attempt, he responded that “it is not really our first priority right now since it is a matter of survival.”

Akbaba claimed that after US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen’s “terrorist organization” is ended, “more democratization” could occur.

“What we expect from the West now is solidarity and cooperation.”

And asked about what the latest turmoil means for relations with the warming ties with Israel, the Turkish official said, “Of course our cooperation with Israel will continue at an increasing rate.”

Hence, taking into account the post-coup attempt turmoil in Turkey and the newfound flexibility in foreign policy, it means that President Bashar Assad’s regime can rest more assured that its northern neighbor will not aggravate the situation at this time.

However, it does not mean that the ruling Islamist AK Party could not reverse course and push harder to support the rebels in the future when the domestic situation stabilizes.

But for now, Erdogan has chosen to focus on the domestic and Kurdish issues at the expense of any Syrian adventure.

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