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Conflict

Opinion: Demonstrate power, but remain calm

Turkey can show its power but must remain on the path of reason when it comes to Syria, says DW's Baha Güngör. Assad's end is inevitable, while Russia and Iran represent wild cards, he adds.

Bahaeddin Güngör

Baha Güngör is the head of the Turkish Department at DW

Bashar Assad is acting like the recently deposed Arab tyrants. As his suicide proceeds in installments, his death throes are becoming ever wilder. The grenades that exploded in the Turkish border town of Akcakale, killing innocent people, represent nothing more than Assad's attempt to provoke a powerful neighbor, and leave behind a legacy of scorched earth for the time when he is no longer in power.

Turkey has reacted in a measured way, with military retaliation but without occupying Syrian territory. Now, Turkey must remain on the path of reason. Under no circumstances should Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan - flanked by international offers of support - be tempted into taking further military action against Syria.

Turkey's recent parliamentary authorization for military action against aggressive neighbors, without specifically naming Syria, is no blank check for the NATO country to act arbitrarily and present the Western alliance and its European partners with a fait accompli. The clear anti-war message from the Turkish population after the parliament's vote shows that Erdogan must also exercise caution on a domestic level.

As hope fades that Assad will voluntarily resign and possibly head to Moscow, Turkey needs to act more prudently than ever. In the meantime, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu can retire his ambitiously titled "No problems with neighbors" program as a failed project.

On the contrary, Turkey has hardly any neighbors with which it doesn't have problems. Support from the West is limited to the Syria conflict, and wouldn't manifest itself so clearly in relation to Armenia, Greece or Bulgaria.

Iran and the superpower Russia will remain as unknown variables with unpredictable reactions. The Kremlin is still supporting Assad, but Russian leader Vladimir Putin will likely be carefully considering if it's worth supporting a dictator during his downfall and in the process destabilizing other important partners in the region. With regard to Turkey, Iran will probably rely on vigorous verbal criticism of Ankara and not dare to undertake a military adventure of its own.

Should Turkey not behave in a reasonable manner, Russia and Iran have another "weapon" to hold against Turkey: natural gas. Winter is at the door and a distinct drop in delivery of Russian gas or other natural resources from Iran could mean Turkey's prosperous economic trend would grind to a halt. Then it would be just a matter of time until Turkey switched back from being "the strong man" of the Bosphorus to its sick man.

And this development would be in the interests of neither the United States, nor Europe, nor NATO. That's why Erdogan would be well advised to avoid unilateral action against Syria, and only engage in negotiation with the West and the United Nations. Military retaliation to attacks from Syria - as with the most recent case - or active support for the Syrian opposition will have to suffice for now, in order to prevent sparking the impending wildfire from Turkey.

Bashar Assad is acting like the recently deposed Arab tyrants. As his suicide proceeds in installments, his death throes are becoming ever wilder. The grenades that exploded in the Turkish border town of Akcakale, killing innocent people, represent nothing more than Assad's attempt to provoke a powerful neighbor, and leave behind a legacy of scorched earth for the time when he is no longer in power.

Turkey has reacted in a measured way, with military retaliation but without occupying Syrian territory. Now, Turkey must remain on the path of reason. Under no circumstances should Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan - flanked by international offers of support - be tempted into taking further military action against Syria.

Turkey's recent parliamentary authorization for military action against aggressive neighbors, without specifically naming Syria, is no blank check for the NATO country to act arbitrarily, and present the Western alliance and its European partners with a fait accompli. The clear anti-war message from the Turkish population after the parliament's vote shows that Erdogan must also exercise caution on a domestic level.

As hope for Assad fades - perhaps leading Assad to voluntarily resign, and possibly head to Moscow - Turkey needs to act more prudently than ever. In the meantime, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu can retire his ambitiously titled "Zero problems with neighbors" program as a failed project.

On the contrary, Turkey has hardly any neighbors with which it doesn't have problems. Support from the West is limited to the Syria conflict, and wouldn't manifest itself so clearly in relation to Armenia, Greece or Bulgaria.

Iran and the superpower Russia will remain as unknown variables with unpredictable reactions. The Kremlin is still supporting Assad, but Russian leader Vladimir Putin will likely be carefully considering if it's worth it to support a dictator in his downfall, in the process destabilizing other important partners in the region. With regard to Turkey, Iran will probably rely on Ankara's vigorous verbal criticism, and not dare to undertake its own military adventure.

Should Turkey not behave itself, Russia as well as Iran have another "weapon" to hold against Turkey, namely oil. Winter is at the door and a distinct drop in delivery of Russian oil or other natural resources from Iran could mean Turkey's prosperous economic trend would grind to a halt. Then it would be just a matter of time until Turkey switched back from being "the strong man" on the Bosphorus, to being a sick man.

And this development would be in the interests of neither the US, nor NATO. That's why Erdogan would be well advised to avoid unilateral action against Syria, and only engage in negotiation with the West and the United Nations. Military retaliation to attacks - as with the most recent case - or active support for the Syrian opposition will have to suffice for now, in order to prevent sparking the impending wildfire from Turkey.

DW.DE