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Turkey’s Lonely Neighborhood Watch

ISTANBUL – For nearly a decade, Turkey benefited from a strategic environment that allowed it to raise its profile, widen its zone of autonomous action, and aspire to regional power in the Middle East.

So, now, as the slaughter in Syria continues, those who want to stop the bloodletting look to Turkey. After futile attempts to convince Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to begin a transition to a more open system, the Turkish government has unequivocally called for Assad’s departure, and is actively trying to secure a legitimate framework for intervention.

Turkey has a 900-kilometer (560-mile) border with Syria, close social ties, and what seems to be a well-developed intelligence network. If the international community finds a legitimate way to intervene in Syria, Turkey’s military contribution to any operation would be assumed. But, despite tremendous pressure from its allies and others, Turkey is unlikely to intervene unilaterally, or to arm the rebel army on its territory.

Like the rest of the world, the Turkish government was caught by surprise when the Arab revolts began. Although Turkey saw these developments as positive and auspicious, it had to improvise its policy while trying not to veer from its principles. The unfolding events were seen as the dénouement of colonialism and the Cold War in the Middle East.