ASIA TIMES IS ERDOGAN SETTING TURKEY UP FOR ANOTHER FALL? ==================================== ASIA TIMES July 24, 2012 The rise and fall of Turkey's Erdogan By M K Bhadrakumar "*** So far, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have done the maximum they could to destabilize Syria and remove the regime headed by President Bashar al-Assad. But Bashar is still holding out. Israeli expertise is now needed to complete the unfinished business. Someone is needed to plunge a sharp knife deep into Bashar's back. Jordan's king can't do the job; he measures up only to Bashar's knees. The Saudi and Qatari sheikhs with their ponderous, flabby body are not used to physical activity; the North Atlantic Treaty Organization prefers to be left alone, having burnt its fingers in Libya with a bloody operation that borders on war crime. That leaves Turkey. In principle, Turkey has the muscle power, but intervention in Syria is fraught with risks and one of the enduring legacies of Kemal Ataturk is that Turkey avoids taking risks. Besides, Turkey's military is not quite in top form. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also unable to carry the majority opinion within Turkey in favor of a war in Syria, and he is navigating a tricky path himself, trying to amend his country's constitution and make himself a real sultan -*** Obviously, Erdogan can't risk his career. Besides, there are imponderables - a potential backlash from the Alawite minority within Turkey (which resents the surge of Salafism under Erdogan's watch) and the perennial danger of walking into a trap set up by militant Kurds. Al-Jazeera interviewed a leader of the Alawite sect in Turkey last week who expressed concern over the increasingly sectarian tone of Syria's internal strife inspired by Salafist Sunnis. They fear a Salafist surge within Turkey. The Alawites in Turkey see Assad "trying to hold together a tolerant, pluralist Syria". Contingency plans But all that is becoming irrelevant. The New York Times reported on Friday, quoting American officials in Washington, that US President Barack Obama is "increasing aid to the rebels and redoubling efforts to rally a coalition of like-minded countries to forcibly bring down the [Syrian] government". It further reported that the CIA operatives who are based in southern Turkey "for several weeks" will continue with their mission to create violence against the Syrian regime. *** *** The emergent operational plan is that while Ankara steps up the covert operations inside Syria (bankrolled by Saudi Arabia and Qatar), Israel will cross the border into Syria from the south and attack Bashar's military and degrade its capacity to resist the Turkish threat. *** Both Russia and China view the Erdogan era favorably for the upward curve in their ties with Turkey. Russia won a $20-$25 billion contract to build nuclear power plants in Turkey. China pulled in Turkey as a dialogue partner for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Turkey hosted a second military exercise with China recently and is aspiring to be a bridge between NATO and Beijing. *** The entry of ExxonMobile and Chevron is a game-changer in the regional politics over Syria. The point is, the best transportation route to the world market for the massive oil and gas deposits in Kurdistan will be via the Syrian port city of Latakia on the eastern Mediterranean. Indeed, an altogether new dimension to the US-Turkish game plan on Syria comes into view. *** What emerges, in retrospect, is that Washington kept Israel in abeyance for the ripe moment to physically demolish Bashar's war machinery, an enterprise that Erdogan is unwilling or incapable of undertaking. Most certainly, Erdogan was in the loop that he was going to partner Barak, but being a shrewd politician he kept up an appearance of agonizing publicly over the Syrian crisis - while, of course, covertly fueling it. *** What is unfolding is a startlingly refreshing sight - Salafism riding the wings of the Israeli air force and landing in Damascus. Erdogan will now set out with renewed vigor to shake up the Bashar tree in Damascus, while any day from now Barak will begin chopping off the tree's branches in a lightning sweep. Erdogan and Barak will make the Bashar tree so naked and helpless that it will realize the futility of standing upright any more. There is no "military intervention" involved here, no NATO operations, no Libya-like analogy can be drawn. Nor is Erdogan to order his army to march into Syria. *** At the end of the day, Erdogan will bite the bullet, which is greased with pork fat. The plain truth is that Israel is going to complete the messy job for him in Syria. Erdogan has no choice but to accept that he belongs to Washington's "toolbox" - nothing more, nothing less. He was never destined for the role to lead the Muslim Middle East. The West was merely pandering to his well-known vanity. That role is Washington's exclusive prerogative. " ===================================== Erdogan should ask himself the questions Turkey's Generals should be asking, and those questions are: 1) if the West takes Syria down, who will then need (want) Turkey and 2) if Turkey helps the West win militarily. what will Turkey gain and what will Turkey lose in a) the short run, and, b) the long run.