No Time for Gloating…but Are the Lessons Learned?

By Nasser Kandil
Events on opposite sides of the Syrian-Turkish border indicate that the occurring confrontations, street demonstrations, provocative communiques, and burning of flags, homes, and stores is not a crack between the Turkish State and its armed group allies which can be repaired. What is occurring reveals a pervasive atmosphere of enmity reaching the level of racism across social segments on both sides of the border.
In retrospect, we recall President Bashar Al Assad drawing attention in the height of Syrian Turkish enmity to the danger of burning the Turkish flag, “…because Turkey has been our neighbor for thousands of years and will continue to be our neighbor for thousands of years, and (because) the Turks respect their country’s flag just like we respect our flag, and are hurt by watching scenes of their flag burning, and do not condone any insult to their flag just like we do not condone any insult to ours.” What are seeing are repetitive Turkish flag-burning scenes absent any voice from the multitudes who yesterday were bragging about the feats of the Turkish embrace of the opposition and support for its battles, and “ …its support and embrace of the Syrian population and absorption of refugees granting them a great deal of facilitation and opportunities.” It appears that all this evaporated in a moment and Turkey became the enemy to reach the point that calls for the withdrawal of Turkish troops by these opposition groups and militias became synonymous with the calls for withdrawal by the Syrian State and its supporters.
What is occurring on the other side of the border, and in spite of Turkish authorities’ depiction of the hostile acts and racism against Syrians as merely local incitement by some Turkish opposition groups against a backdrop of economic hardship on one hand, and sentiments that the period of sheltering has exceeded its normal limits, and time has come for solutions involving a review of policies, and rapprochement with the Syrian State as a reality resilient to weakening or quashing attempts. Such wave of enmity has had its counterpart among some Lebanese, and has it origin in all of Europe against all refugees, and has become a policy these days with the rise of the Right.
It is possible for one who is indifferent to policies to be a gloating spectator, watching those considered enemies of the allies of rivals or enemies, and to see good in their fighting and turning against each other. The reality, however, is that innocent Syrian citizens are the ones falling as a result of these events, just like what frequently occurs when Syrian refugees are subject to retaliatory acts in some of the Lebanese areas following a crime committed by a refugee, or the spread of a rumor attributing an incident to a refugee, similar to what occurred after the murder in Jbeil of the Lebanese Force Official Pascal Suleiman.
Politically, the first question is raised to the Turkish leadership which traded opportunities presented to it and still available, for coming to an understanding with the Syrian State, before it got embroiled in the war against Syria, opting instead for a gamble on the containment and adoption of groups opposing the Syrian State, the majority of which are affiliated with an extremist terrorist takfiri (Muslim declaring another Muslim an apostate) ideology. Turkey supported and protected these groups and continued to maneuver by re-interpreting the understandings reached in Astana and separating parts of the Syrian geography from the motherland to delay the hour of bringing this anomalous situation to a close. Simply, the question is the benefits accrued by Turkish national security from such gamble in view of Turkey’s persistent excuse of facing, what Ankara calls, the threat from Kurdish militant groups, and identifies them as an extension of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), when the only way to avoid the threat from such groups is an understanding with the Syrian State. Turkey is cognizant that the source of power for these groups comes from American political and military support, and that an understanding with the Syrian State is the way to weaken these groups and their separatist enterprise, transforming into an odious falsehood talk about any benefit to Turkish national security from the occupation of Syrian parts. Has Turkey benefitted from investment in these groups by obtaining an arm in regional wars, or at a later stage, in building influence in a united Syria by merging these groups in the heart of Syrian political life? The answer these scenes reveal in the position taken by these groups is prominent enmity to Turkey, indicating that ten years of support and patronage evaporated and morphed into a state of hostility, only because Turkey began to review calculations. They also reveal that it is these groups that used Turkey for their plans, and that Turkey found to word of thanks for what it had provided over the years as soon as it decided to look out for its own interests.
The second political question is posed to the Syrian opposition groups which claimed ownership of a reform project that preserves the integrity of Syrian geography and nationalism, and that it formed an alliance with Turkey as a depth for its enterprise, and with the extremist armed factions as a military arm to realize their project. What do the facts say today, and does Turkey appear to be a reliable source of support outside of its interests of state which exploited Syrian opposition groups when possible in a manner compatible with its illusions, dreams, aspirations and greediness, and when realities imposed changing policies, it executed changes without any consideration for the fate of opposition groups ? Similarly, it does not strongly appear that militant groups which initially rode on the opposition groups piggyback, now ride roughshod, and today have their own special project, rendering worthless the discourse and claims of the leaders of the opposition groups, whether they call themselves the revolution or provisional government or free army or other bodiless entities lacking presence and effectiveness, with the final word going to those wielding power, namely the militant groups.
The third question is posed to the Syrians who believed that a country other than theirs could embrace and contain them, and that the case created for the from an illusion, was nothing but a mere deception to exploit them in a big international-regional game which sought to destroy what was bright in their country, namely its independence, insistence on its sovereignty, and the level of security, services, and prosperity it provided for its people, and that the war exhausted its objectives and its mission was accomplished, and that the Syrian State remained standing with the remainder of its people, albeit after a great deal of destruction of this bright picture at the hands of Syrians in the majority, while the indulgence ended for those who believed in the revolution lie.
What is occurring in Turkey against Syrians is a sample of what will happen in many other places in Europe and regions other than Europe, and the voluntary dignified return to Syria is a thousand times better than the forced return with a one-way ticket, or the return in a coffin.

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