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U.S. intervention in Syria and Turkey's attitude.

Despite hundreds of thousands of deaths in Syria, the Obama administration has thus far chosen not to step forward. The general narrative is that no measures would bring any substantial results. The trauma of the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan had a serious influence in the development of this narrative. The administration, shaken by this trauma, has subsequently committed another excess by failing to act.

However, "red-lines" that Obama administration brought up about the usage of chemical weapons changed the way Obama administration analyze profit and loss because there is a price for leaders to threaten publicly. We may call it an "international audience cost." The Obama administration is now facing a pressure that is created by the promises they made on taking action. Moreover, many experts in the U.S., just because of this reason, think that an intervention would be meaningless. For example, Stephen Walt from Harvard University, states that "He foolishly drew a << red line >> a few months back, so now he>s getting taunted with the old canard about the need to << restore U.S. credibility."

There seems to be too much confusion on this matter. Many experts make suggestions on how to make the intervention effective. But almost everyone confess that a punishing operation that does not overthrow Assad cannot contribute to the process in a significant way. Against all these arguments, is expected that Obama will actualize the "punitive" operation because USA's credit is vital in terms of policies that they follow in various regions, e.g. Pacific. On top of that, Obama does not want to cultivate a "weak president" image in domestic politics.

Public Support

I can hear you say, "Okay, but there is news on questioning public opinion polls about American are against war". Right, public seems to be against war. According to some public opinion polls, almost 60 percent of the Americans are against the intervention. However, this opposition has been common before nearly every American intervention.

In the wake of Obama as the President of the United States, the symbolic leader of the country, officially declares the intervention, the attitude of American people towards the intervention will change. The approval rates of Obama and support for intervention will increase. Along with this "rally effect", the criticizing comments on President will decrease in time of war, his failures in internal politics will be left aside, and he will be supported.

Scope of the Operation

The expectations on Obama administration to make a regime change operation in Syria are considerably weak. First, it will necessitate use of ground forces, which increases the risk of casualties. Additionally, this intervention would require a long-term engagement which entails the war to be called as "Obama's war" after Iraq and Afghanistan, a situation that President will avoid. Furthermore, the economic burden that war brings along is not easy to be explained to the American people. Lastly, in the case of probable overthrow of Assad, some groups that USA does not support may be influential in the Syrian government. Hence, these huge risks would not be taken for such kind of result.

In this case, the operation is expected to be limited to strike of previously determined targets via using cruise missiles and air strikes avoiding taking great risks. These targets could be directly the chemical weapons or the troops used these weapons. Besides, strategic and symbolic target might be aimed to persuade Assad to avoid further use of WMD. In order to underline the message, the operation will be conducted in a showy and strong way. The dramatic and remarkable scenes of the operation will be circulated via media, particularly the social media.

However, neither Assad's chemical weapons could be completely destroyed nor the possibility of use of chemical weapons again could be eliminated after the intervention. The regime will conceal its assets until the end of operation. When the operation is over, the regime will resume.

What should Turkey's Approach be?

Turkey's approach can be analyzed in two different situations. First, if this operation aims to overthrow Assad, Turkey should have an active role in the coalition and contribute to accelerate the process. Nevertheless, the signals given by the U.S administration points a limited operation. In such case Turkey, at the border of Syria, may be an easy target to the Assad regime. This is the reason why Iraq (there are other reasons for Iraq of course) and Jordan are not eager to be the part of the coalition.

Turkey has faced many problems during Syrian crisis from plane crash to terrorist attacks in which many Turkish citizens died. The problems in Syria are highly related with Turkey's interests not only in the region but also for domestic security of the country. Thus, it is in Turkey's interest to pursue an active but cautious policy regarding the possible U.S. intervention in Syria.

Mehmet YEGIN (*)

(*) Director of Center for American Studies at USAK.
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Author:Yegin, Mehmet
Publication:USAK Yearbook of Politics and International Relations
Geographic Code:7TURK
Date:Jan 1, 2013
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