Geopolitics

Something Shall Be Done: Why Turkey Is Set On Regime Change In Syria

Analysis: Don’t be fooled by the fact that Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan didn’t launch a military response to the downing of a Turkish jet. He has made it clear in other ways that Bashar Al-Assad's days are numbered.

A portrait of Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan behind a Syrian girl in a refugee camp on the Turkish-Syrian border (FreedomHouse2)
A portrait of Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan behind a Syrian girl in a refugee camp on the Turkish-Syrian border (FreedomHouse2)
Sedat Ergin

ISTANBUL - In last week's Parliamentary address, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan set out the framework for how to respond to the most recent Syrian crisis of the downed Turkish fighter jet.

Despite using strong language, Erdogan did not signal any immediate military retaliation. Instead, the short-term priority rests on the diplomatic front. Indeed, the most striking part of the address were his middle and long term view on Syria, which we can call Erdogan's "nip it in the bud " approach.

Erdogan has openly defined the Bashar al-Assad administration as a "clear and present threat," and he did not hide the fact that he is ultimately focused on toppling and destroying this regime.

The words: "All kinds of support the Syrian people need will be provided until they are saved from the dictator and his gang," are the most extreme words the Turkish Prime Minister has uttered against Assad to date.

The "support" mentioned could refer to arming the opposition, providing financial aid, and logistical support for foreign intelligence elements to infiltrate Syria.

Reports that Turkey was sending arms to aid the Syrian opposition were categorically denied in Ankara, but that denial has lost credence since Erdogan's parliamentary address last Tuesday.

In fact, Erdogan's words can be regarded as confirmation of reports published in The New York Times and the Guardian last week that Turkey was aiding CIA activities at the Syrian border, as well as helping to finance the delivery of arms to the opposition, alongside Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Rules of engagement

The Prime Minister clearly does not feel the need to hide the fact that he has taken sides in the Syrian civil war, and that he is an intervening party. His stance demonstrates an attitude similar to that of former President Turgut Ozal, when he dropped Saddam Hussein completely, all at once.

The tone adopted in Erdogan's speech also implies that when the time comes: "something will be done." This will likely come in the form of a military response in Syria.

In the meantime it seems Turkey will wait for Syria to make a mistake, or do something else to provoke such an attack. This is implied through his phrase, "The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have changed their rules of engagement toward Syria."

The most problematic part of the speech was Erdogan's slamming of the Turkish press, including unacceptably severe and unjust statements referring to journalists as "sold pens' and "not sons of this country." If Turkey is a democracy, then the government's foreign policy should be open to criticism.

The Prime Minister himself admitted that Assad "did not live up to his promises," and, indeed, had misled him. Therefore, however good-willed he may be, the policy Erdogan followed did not bring any results. In this case, are those, who at the time criticized Erdogan for getting so close to Assad, now mistaken? Are they suddenly not sons of the country?

If Turkey has chosen democracy as its path, there is nothing more natural than to question the government's foreign policy and the crisis policies it follows. In democracies, leaders tolerate journalists who use their right to criticize; they don't go pointing fingers at them.

This should be one of the aspects that differentiate Turkey from other regimes in the region. Regims like Bashar al-Assad's.

Read the original article in Turkish.

Photo - FreedomHouse2

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Queen Elizabeth II with UK PM Boris Johnson at a reception at Windsor Castle yesterday

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.

[*Danish]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.

• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.

• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.

• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."

• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

98

For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.

🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.

😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.

— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.

🇮🇷🎓  IN OTHER NEWS

Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Thoughts on Facebook's new name? Zuckerverse? Tell us how the news look in your corner of the world: Drop us a note at info@worldcrunch.com!

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