Turkey and Syria: A Slippery Slope
The New York Times, LETTER
Published: May 21, 2013
Regarding the article “Turkey needs Obama’s help on Syria” (Views, May 18) by Soner Cagaptay and James F. Jeffrey: The United States should do the opposite of what the authors suggest. Washington does not need to “save” Turkey. Instead, the Obama administration should contain the ambitions of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which have brought trouble to Turkey and which risk igniting a regional conflagration.
Turkey has acted irresponsibly, aggravating the situation in Syria. It’s obvious that Obama does not want to plunge into the kind of adventure that many in the U.S. foreign policy elite are urging him to undertake. But the partnership that Obama has forged with Erdogan over Syria is effectively creating the very conditions that will end up drawing in the United States down the road.
The Obama administration needs to recognize that increasing the pressure on the Assad regime with Turkey is bound to lead to Syrian countermeasures against Turkey. The Syrian response will in turn prompt calls that the United States come to the rescue of its ally. This is a slippery slope for Washington.
If Obama wants to avoid finding himself presiding over yet another U.S. war in the Middle East, he must make sure that Turkey closes its border to the Sunni militants. The mess that Erdogan has gotten himself into with Syria is also reason for Washington to reassess the assumption that Turkey is a pillar of stability in the region that will act responsibly.
Halil M. Karaveli
The writer is a senior fellow at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and the Silk Road Studies Program, which are affiliated with the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, in Washington, and with the Institute for Security and Development Policy, in Stockholm.