Syria’s president, Bashar Assad, has likely made a fatal mistake for the future of his regime by alienating Turkey.
Early on in the 16-month uprising, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Assad to cease shelling crowded neighborhoods in towns where the rebels had holed up and urged the second-generation dictator to begin instituting needed democratic and economic reforms.
Assad ignored him, as he has other national leaders who have offered similar advice.
Instead, he stepped up the pace of bloodshed and, with support from Russia and Iran, dug in for the long haul against the rebels. Turkey had been a bystander, reluctantly offering sanctuary to civilian refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria.
However, Turkey has increasingly become a place for the rebels to retreat, refit and rearm, as well as a location for their wounded to be treated.
It is now openly the headquarters of the umbrella rebel group, the Free Syrian Army.
Intense fighting continues inside Syria, intense enough that the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission told the Security Council that it was too dangerous for the U.N. observers to return to the country.
Russia was alarmed enough for the security of one of its few friends in the Mideast to begin readying shipment of a half-billion dollars worth of arms — fighter jets, helicopters, air defense systems to Syria.
Those arms suggest the Russians are worried about outside military intervention.
But the U.S. and the other Western nations have repeatedly disavowed any intention of intervening in Syria.
The real threat, now that Assad has alienated Turkey, is better trained, armed and organized rebel forces operating from sanctuaries along the border.
Erdogan said recently, “Turkey will support Syrian people in every way until they get rid of the bloody dictator and his gang.”
Sounds like Assad has lost a friend.
The Gleaner, Henderson, Ky. (July 5)