Middle East Syria Turkey

Erdogan: “We Entered Syria to Topple Assad”

(GPA) Istanbul – Earlier today Turkish president Recep Erdogan told a crowd at the first meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Jerusalem Platform Symposium that Turkish troops were in Syria for the explicit reason of toppling Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

President Erdogan told the group of international parliamentary leaders that his country’s only intention in Syria was to “end the rule of the tyrant al-Assad who terrorizes with state terror.” Erdogan says he wanted to make clear that the Turks “do not have an eye on Syrian soil. The issue is to provide lands to their real owners. That is to say we are there for the establishment of justice.”

This goes against the actual current mission of NATO – of which Turkey is of course a member – to crush Islamic State forces in Syria. Turkey also belongs to the regional anti IS coalition and is supposed to be helping to eliminate the terror group in Syria. This is despite the claims from Western allies such as Israel and eastern powers like Russia that Turkey has funded the group in the past as well as allowed smuggling of IS oil across the border.

Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic  Flickr author: Michael Fleshman
Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic Flickr author: Michael Fleshman

This also is contrary to most of the Turkish actions in the countries which are supposedly targeting IS but usually end in bombings of Kurdish targets. Even though Erdogan touted cooperation with Free Syrian Army in his speech, Turkey has been slow to back this group (due to their cooperation with the Kurds) and is more apt to cooperate with groups that actually fight the Kurdish militias. This has changed a bit in the recent past but that may be due to more pro-Islamist fighters joining the FSA; which correlates more with the Turkish vision for Syria. On top of this, these remarks by Erdogan may have been triggered by the fact that the Syrian army is taking territory from the militias his government backs and is close to coming into open conflict with the Turkish military.

Yet Erdogan brushed all this aside; along with his own post-coup persecutions in turkey that have hit over 150,000 Turkish citizens by claiming that his intervention in Syria was some sort of altruistic crusade. Speaking of “[his] estimation, [that] nearly 1 million people have died in Syria,” and that “these deaths are still continuing without exception for children, women and men.”

Erdogan even called out the rest of the world as if he were fighting IS alone when he asked “Where is the United Nations? What is it doing? Is it in Iraq? No.” He continued the assault by pretending Turkey was the regional partner and some kind of victim. This was reflected when he chastised others saying “We preached patience but could not endure in the end and had to enter Syria together with the Free Syrian Army.”

This is all counter to moves made by Erdogan over the past few months to tighten ties with Russia, Iran and Syria. In September, Erdogan opened talks with Russia on cooperation with the Syrian government to broker a solution for the war in the country. Yet less than 2 months after this deal was made Erdogan has turned his troops and militias on Syrian forces multiple times.

This is just the latest turn in Turkish objectives in Syria. Erdogan now claims Turkey does “not have an eye on Syrian soil,” (which was never really conceived of anyway) but that “The issue is to provide lands to their real owners. That is to say we are there for the establishment of justice.” Giving the land to the real owners however will prove difficult since the FSA is aligned with so many other groups made up of foreigners from Chechnya, to Europe and the US. If Erdogan really wants to do the Syrians a favor, he can keep his hands off of Syrian soil and his nose out of Syria’s business.