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Response to dipsydoodle (Reply #9)

Thu Oct 4, 2012, 10:43 AM

11. True from a tactical perspective. It would be better if neither side had uninterrupted flow of arms,

but they both do.

Turkey and Syria were allies and trading partners before Assad started with the repression of protests in early 2011.

Turkey Reaches Out to Its Neighbors: Rapprochement and Cooperation 2002-2011

The PKK issue brought the two countries to the brink of war in the 1990s, before Syria defused the tension in 1998 by kicking out Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader it had sheltered. The stage was set for a dramatic strategic realignment that took place in the next decade under two new leaders: Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

Under Turkey’s new “zero problem policy” with its neighbors, Erdogan’s government sought investment opportunities in Syria, which was opening its state-led economy, and assurances from Damascus regarding PKK. For his part, Assad desperately needed new friends at a time of great tension with US over Syria’s role in Iraq and Lebanon. An assertive Turkey, less dependent on the US, was a perfect gateway into the world:

Diplomatic alliance: Turkey was instrumental in breaking Syria’s international isolation, paving the way for Assad’s visit to France in 2005, and brokering peace talks between Syria and Israel in 2008.

Military cooperation: Joint military manoeuvres were held in 2009, coinciding with the souring of Turkey’s ties to Israel. Steps toward cooperation in defense industry was also announced that year.

Trade: The icing on the cake was the 2007 Free Trade Agreement that boosted bilateral trade volume from 796 million USD in 2006 to 2.5 billion USD in 2010. Visa regime was abolished in 2009, opening doors to a stream of visitors from both sides (see Turkish government data on trade with Syria).

2011 Syrian Uprising: Why Did Turkey Turn On Assad?

The outbreak of the anti-government uprising in Syria in 2011 put an abrupt end to a short-lived Ankara-Damascus axis, as Turkey, after a period of weighing its options, decided that Assad’s days were numbered. Ankara hedged its bets on Syria’s opposition, offering shelter to leaders of the Free Syrian Army.

Turkey’s decision was partly dictated by its regional image, so carefully nurtured by Erdogan’s government: a stable and democratic state, ruled by a moderate Islamist government that offers a model of a progressive political system for other Muslim countries. Assad’s brutal crackdown against initially peaceful protests, condemned across the Arab world, turned him from an asset to a liability.


It's not like the two countries were not getting along quite well before Assad's repression started. Does anyone condemn Turkey for distancing itself from Assad last year in light of how he reacted to the protests?

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