Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Pro-Syrian media propagating conspiracy theories | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Damascus/London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Pro-Syrian Lebanese media outlets yesterday quoted informed sources within Damascus that Turkey has agreed to a “US plan for a limited Turkish military intervention along the Turkish – Syrian border, and particularly in [Syria’s] Idlib province and its border areas.”

The pro-Syrian media is spreading such information at the same time that the Syrian army is undertaking a military operation in the Jisr al-Shagour region and thousands of Syrian citizens are fleeing the conflict and seeking refuge in Turkey. Ankara has announced that it will not shut the door in the face of these Syrian refugees, setting up refugee camps and discussing the possibility of setting up a buffer zone along the border in the event of the conflict in Syria continuing. Some estimates indicate that more than 10,000 Syrian citizens have fled the country to seek asylum in Turkey.

According to information on the ground, events in Syria will most likely further escalate, particularly in light of the large number of pro-Syrian regime “analysts” promoting the theory that Turkey is involved in a US conspiracy against Damascus, and that those Syrians who have fled the violence are the families of members of armed groups. This is the same accusation that was leveled by the Syrian regime at the Syrian citizens who fled the country for Lebanon last month.

Syrian “analysts” appearing on Syrian “Addounia TV” yesterday claimed that “the Turkish government is giving twenty thousand dollars to every Syrian family that flees Syria, and the majority of these Syrians who claim to be refugees in reality went to receive this money.” “Addounia TV” also broadcast alleged telephone calls attributed to members of anti-government armed groups in the Idlib province, and reported claims that such groups are operating under the support of Turkey.

It is worth noting that the pro-Bashar al-Assad demonstrations organized by the Syrian regime last week contained strong anti-Turkish sentiment, with pro-regime supporters burning Israeli and Turkish flags and chanting anti-Turkish slogans. This represents the first time that Bashar al-Assad’s supporters have drawn a parallel between Syria’s arch-enemy, Zionist Israel, and Turkey, which until recently was one of the strongest international supporters of the al-Assad regime. In addition to this, pro-regime supporters also demonstrated in front of the Turkish embassy in Damascus. It therefore seems that the honeymoon period between the Syrian regime and the Turkish Justice and Development [AKP] party government has come to an end. Indeed newly re-elected Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stressed that “Turkey’s relationship is with the Syrian people, rather than the Syrian regime.”

Such talk has only strengthened the Syrian regime’s fear that Turkey could be involved in a US conspiracy against Damascus, not to mention Ankara publicly discussing the possibility of enforcing a buffer zone along the Syrian – Turkish border, which Damascus considers a breach of Syrian sovereignty. Damascus also sent a new round of indirect messages to Ankara, via these Syrian “analysts”, as well as Lebanese media figures loyal to the Syrian regime. According to these “analysts” this conspiracy would see ‘a phased Turkish military intervention into Syrian territory in order to enforce a buffer zone along the Turkish –Syrian borders…which will become a center for military action against the [Syrian] regime.” This same pro-Syrian analyst added that “this set of circumstances will be followed by Arab and Western military coverage that shows the superiority and rapid progress achieved by the Turkish army, as well as incitement against the al-Assad regime, resulting in the collapse of the Syrian regime.”

As for the possibility of Iranian involvement, another Lebanese analyst loyal to the Syrian regime said that “Tehran has directly informed the UAE that the Syrian regime represents an Iranian red-line and that this regime being exposed to threat will lead to the Gulf region being placed in danger.” The pro-Syrian analyst went further, saying that the deployment of Syrian military units to the Idlib province is a clear message that “Ankara’s lecturing of Syria is over, and the Syrians army will strongly intervene along its own borders in response to any threat regardless of the results.”

The Syrian street is extremely surprised by the deterioration in the relationship between Turkey and Syria; there was previously strong rapprochement between the two countries, with Damascus and Ankara signing a number of agreements, including trade and economic agreements. Although these agreements predominately had a positive influence on Syrian society – particularly in light of Syria’s political and economic isolation during a large part of the last decade – they did not avoid some criticism. Indeed Syrian protestors working in the furnishing and furniture-making industry come out to protest against the importation of Turkish furnishings into Syria in the towns of Sakba and Daria. Many in Syria were not happy with the previous Turkish – Syrian rapprochement, and are now actively opposing and criticizing Turkish intervention in Syrian internal affairs. However many others, particularly those demonstrating against the Bashar al-Assad regime, have raised banners congratulating Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his recent re-election, and thinking Ankara for taking in the Syrian refugees fleeing the Syrian army’s repression. In any case, it seems that Syrian society is as divided on Turkey as they are on the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Last week, Erdogan intensified Ankara’s position on the situation in Syria, accusing the Syrian regime of carrying out an “atrocity” against the demonstrations and calling the crackdown “unacceptable.”

In a phone call to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday, Erdogan urged him to “refrain from violence and the end the unrest,” according to the Anatolia news agency. Erdogan also stressed that “it would be useful to draw up a timetable of reforms as soon as possible and urgently implement them.”

According to a toll released on Tuesday by human rights activists, the violence in Syria has claimed the lives of 1,297 civilians and 340 security officers, since anti-regime demonstrations erupted in March.