Perhaps the time has come for Turkey to step out of the shadows and take the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria head on. After several provocative actions — targeting of the border refugee camps or the downing of a Turkish plane in June — Syria has given Turkey an open invitation to war by attacking a border town and killing civilians. Turkey is currently carrying out retaliatory strikes against Syria and also debating cross-border military operations in its parliament. Quite certainly, the pressure on Turkey, which has emerged as a frontline nation opposed to the Assad regime, is building up. However, the attacks from Syria are not the only reason for this build-up. The real reason behind Turkey’s predicament is the utter confusion and paralysis that define the international response to Syria. Although Nato allies have promptly complied with Turkey’s demand for a special meeting to consider Syria’s latest act of hostility, there is no indication that the member-nations are dying to throw themselves directly into the cauldron in Syria. If Russia and China have consistently defeated their plans for military intervention by striking down resolutions in the United Nations security council, the latest experience in Libya has thrown another spanner in their works. The killing of the American consul in Libya has shown them the flip side of interventionism. As in many parts of the Arab world that have witnessed a spring, democratization in Libya has meant a pull towards Islamization and a rapid rise in the influence of foreign jihadi forces such as al Qaida, suspected to be behind the murderous attack in Benghazi. The West cannot help but remind itself that its military action in Libya provided the catalyst for change there.
All this leaves Turkey high and dry. Once a thick friend of Syria, Turkey now not only echoes the opinion of the Arab League nations that want to unseat the Assad regime, but it has also emerged as the chief conduit through which funds and arms are channelled to the rebels. It shoulders almost 100,000 Syrian refugees at the risk of intensifying sectarian conflicts within and worsening its own problems with the Kurdish rebels who are patronized by Syria. Many fear that like Pakistan, Turkey will be left licking its wounds alone. Turkey wants to forget all that now, but no one knows for how long it can go on deceiving itself.