Over the weekend, I was in that wonderful city in France, Cannes. The weather was clear and sunny. Moreover, Dec. 9 was my birthday.
If you wonder what I was doing, let me tell you: I participated in the World Policy Conference.
In such a beautiful climate, on such an important day, I moderated a debate about the future of the Middle East and I explained Turkey.
I also asked myself, “What are you doing here? Why are you indoors?” However, since I have the bug of “professionalism,” I spent one of my days like this. In fact, I learned a lot. Here, I want to share it with you.
I will start with Syria, it will be Iran tomorrow.
Those joining the sessions were top-level people. They have access to very strong intelligence.
The Syrian briefing was given by Edward Djerejian, who served as the U.S. ambassador in Damascus until a short while ago. He is a diplomat who has spoken to Bashar Assad numerous times and written special reports to Washington.
He believes it would not be easy to topple Assad. “He sits on such an ossified state structure, handed over to him from his father, the interests are so much intertwined with each other that [Assad] will not collapse so easily. … He will not stay in power forever, but his fall will take a long time,” he said.
If there are those in Ankara who think differently, they better take note of these words.
Everybody agrees that Washington does not want to be engaged in a military intervention. There are two reasons for this stance:
The United States burned its fingers in Iraq and Afghanistan; it wants to get away from those places. Even though Syria is small, it does not want another military initiative. Neither the public nor U.S. President Barack Obama has such an intention.
Another reason is that Syria has an army that should not be underestimated. For years, this army has been equipped by Russians against Israel. It was said that this army would make any intervening party suffer.
Whoever will enter the war should think twice and be prepared for losses.
Well, what will happen? Who will say “stop” to this course of events?
Everybody is expecting the opposition to bring Assad to heel. The opposition forces, though, are disintegrated, and they have few weapons. As you can understand, the situation is not very bright.
Well, will the international public just watch? Djerejian has these estimations:
“As the civil war spreads and as the number of casualties increases even more, then it would be a must to act. We will wait until that time. Because, there is still the fear whether radical Islam would replace him after Assad leaves. It is feared that separation of Syria will inflict more bloodshed to the region. This situation makes Assad’s job easier.”
Well, in this case, how is Turkey perceived? I have come across the same reply at every time. “Hopefully [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan does not make a rash move and initiate a military intervention.”
I, in turn, tried to explain insistently that Turkey would not fall into that trap.
I guess I was able to convince at least half of the hall.
(Mehmet Ali Birand is a columnist at Hurriyet Daily News, where this article was published Dec. 11, 2012. Twitter: @mabirand32gun)