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Turkey Hears Syrian Cries

Erin Dwyer

Dissent broke out across Syria on Friday as protesters called for the imposition of a no-fly zone similar to the policy that NATO took in Libya not long ago. Shortly thereafter, however, NATO’s Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made it clear that despite public outcries, military intervention is not in NATO’s agenda. As Rasmussen said, “NATO has no intention (to intervene) whatsoever. I can completely rule that out”.

Turkey, a NATO member and former Syrian ally, is emerging as the front-runner in the campaign against President Bashar al-Asad’s regime, responsible for the brutal crackdown that has thus far left more than 3,000 people dead. While the 22-nation Arab League gave Asad until the end of October to quit all military operations and engage in a dialogue with opposition forces, and several Western powers have officially requested that Asad step down from power, Turkey is the one proactively paving the way for anti-Asad resistance.

At the Altinozu camp in Turkey, Syrian residents built a mock graveyard with one “grave” for China and Russia, who vetoed a recent UN resolution against Syria.

Turkey is a sanctuary for Syria’s main opposition army, the Free Syrian Army, composed of defected military personnel and 22 “battalions” in Syria. Ankara has reportedly allowed the army to conduct attacks across the border in Syrian territory. Turkey is also home to 7,500 Syrian refugees and the Syrian National Council — a group of exiles and internal dissidents who announced their council’s formation in Istanbul one month ago. Moreover, Ankara has been vocal in speaking out against Asad and in threatening to sanction his regime.

President Bashar al-Asad, paranoid about military intervention, said in an interview published this weekend that external action would trigger an “earthquake” that “would burn the whole region.” Turkey hardly seems scared. Why is Washington and its Western allies acting like they are?