Syria’s Widening Conflict

Andrew Sullivan —  Oct 4 2012 @ 4:08pm

Now that Syria and Turkey are exchanging fire, Simon Tisdall thinks the West may be forced to respond:

[T]he do-nothing, hand-wringing favoured by Turkey's international allies may not be politically sustainable much longer as the Syrian crisis inexorably expands not just into Turkey but into Iraq, Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, too. Turkey will not go it alone, despite a parliamentary motion authorising cross-border operations. But pressure for more direct, multilateral intervention, most probably via Nato, is growing among Arab states and in the US, where Barack Obama's hands-off stance is under fire from Republicans.

Walter Russell Mead examines the complexities of a possible intervention by the US:

The longer the war drags on, especially with Gulf Arabs supporting Sunni fighters, the more powerful jihadis and radicals become in the Syrian resistance, and the more communal hatreds and desire for revenge killings create the likelihood of bloodbaths and ethnic/religious killings across the country. But military intervention a la Iraq or even Libya gets us to Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn rule: if you break it, you own it.

Lately, our sense that a regime change in Syria would weaken Iran in the region and put real pressure on the mullahs to cut a deal on the nuclear issue has led us to think about ways the United States could help the resistance shorten the war short of overt military intervention. We get the impression that some people in Washington are also thinking about this, and that the nature and level of American aid to the resistance is changing.

Mohammed Ayoob worries Turkey is taking on more than it can handle:

Above all, Turks [have become] increasingly aware of the conflict's damaging consequences for their own society. Turkey's active support for the anti-Assad rebels has widened its own sectarian divide between the majority Sunnis (who support the predominantly Sunni Syrian rebels) and minority Alevis, who are sympathetic to the Alawite-dominated Assad regime. The Alevis, who identify Sunni dominance with the governing AKP, recognise a similar problem faced by Syria's minority Alawites confronting a predominantly Sunni rebellion. This explains in part the opposition of the major opposition party, CHP, which draws upon Alevi electoral support, to the government's unbending anti-Assad posture.

Michael Koplow doesn't believe this week's events will lead to a war between the two countries:

[T]here is no reason for Syria not to back away from this as quickly as possible. The only way in which Turkey will be drawn into Syria unilaterally is if the Assad regime escalates this in a serious way, and while Assad and the Syrian army are unpredictable, this is not a fight they are eager to have. Syria has spent months testing Turkey’s patience and trying to figure out what its boundaries are, and yesterday’s events will make it clear to Syria that this was one step too far.