As the history in the Middle East changes with the Arab Spring; it seems that Assad, who failed to satisfy the Syrian people in the past 12 years and who was late in making political reforms, will strive to survive by creating polarization over himself and by protecting regional balances, just like during the Cold War period in the Middle East. Assad, who keeps the whole military, security and intelligence power of the country under his own monopoly, aims at easing the tension inside by settling the opposition by February. Regarding the relations with Turkey; Assad, who aims at stopping the AK Party government not from outside but from inside, wants to be at least supported by the Turkish public opinion by inviting Turkish opposition parties to Damascus. And Assad's relations with Turkey are shaped by the advisors with Nationalist identities in the Turkish public opinion.
Target of Damascus Administration: Turkish Public Opinion
The Damascus administration wants to take the support of the Turkish public opinion in order to continue its legitimacy. This is the reason lying behind the fact that they wanted to invite the Felicity Party (SP) in Damascus. Workers' Party (İP) and Republican People's Party (CHP) had already been hosted. Making its move upon the visit of CHP, Damascus administration invited Felicity Party, which is on the conservative side, to the country. It appeared that Damascus administration pursued two goals in the visit of Felicity Party. One of these goals is to give message to conservative circles supporting the Felicity in Turkey, and to receive support in Turkey and Middle East by taking advantage of the deceased Necmettin Erbakan factor. Knowing what Erbakan means to Felicity, the Assad administration also took into account that Erdoğan did politics besides Erbakan. And secondly, as Ikhwanists were among insurgents, the regime is striving to show the support from parties such as Felicity. Following the visit of SP, MHP and BDP invitations come next. The Damascus administration will firstly invite MHP, and if this visit takes place, then BDP will be invited. The objective is to raise the voice of Turkish opposition against Erdoğan government. And to stop Erdoğan, who strongly opposes to Syria, not from outside but from inside. As for the visit of MHP, they want to receive the support of both nationalist circles and another opposition party besides CHP within the Assembly.
Nationalist Turkish Advisor of Assad
People, who are known for their nationalist identities in the Turkish public opinion, lead the relations between Turkey and Bashar Assad that is rapidly dragged into both problematic and rough period of relations with Turkey. In other words, Assad looks Turkey from the point of view of Nationalist authorities and the authorities from Workers' Party. As a matter of fact, the strategy of desiring to stop AK Party government not from outside but from inside also stems from this fact. Within this framework, the Assad Regime invites all the political party leaders to Damascus, in order to stop the AK Party government, which follows a strong policy against Syria, not from outside but from inside.
When a group of irresponsible spoilers, who were mad at the sanction decision of the Arab League in Syria, attacked our consulate buildings, burned Turkish flag and Atatürk posters; Assad's Nationalist Turkish Advisor warns. According to this advisor, the circles that are sensitive on the issues such as Turkish flag and Mustafa Kemal in Turkey, and the circles that are the “most sensitive” and “acting most responsibly” towards the events taking place in Syria are the same people. These people state that this kind of actions are not right, by indicating they are in solidarity with Syria and they are against imperialist policies. Accordingly, the policy they imposed on Assad seems like convincing the opposition against Prime Minister Erdoğan.
Assad Paves The Way For Kurdish Autonomous Region
Bashar Assad launched reforms on the Kurdish, who have been living in Syria and who has not even had identities for many years. As of the beginning of last month, Assad gave the Kurdish green light to have their identities. However, Assad's solution policy on the Kurdish problem proceeds on a disturbing basis for the neighbors and the U.S.
Upon the fact that Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barzani, who was invited to Damascus by Assad, did not accept this invitation; and the fact that Barzani held meetings with the Lebanese Hariri family, he started to make reforms on the Kurdish within his own country. Assad considers the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government as a region under the auspices of the U.S. and Turkey. Therefore, in return for the Barzani card, Assad talked to Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is the political extension of PKK in Syria. He has made gestures to PYD, not expected from him, for the last three months.
Going back to several months of Assad-PYD relations, the moment the leader of PYD Saleh Muslim, who was sentenced to life in prison, while in exile, by PYD and forgiven by Assad, was released; he showed up in the meeting that was organized by the Ba'ath Party and told the people to support the Assad Regime by explaining it. In accordance with the Assad-PKK agreement, Muslim was suddenly released when he had been sentenced to life in prison. According to the Syrian laws, life sentence is practices in two ways; one is for lifetime, and the other is in case of showing goodwill (goodwill is possible only after completing 21 years of sentence). Thus, Saleh Muslim had to be in the jail at least for 21 years.
Depending on the Syrian policy of Turkey and the U.S., it is suggested that Assad's card on Barzani and the Kurdish would be the establishment of a Kurdish autonomous region under the control of PYD.
Felicity Party's (SP) Visit
The Felicity Party's visit means a lot for the Syrian regime. As the regime knows the conservative nature of the Felicity Party, they strove a lot to explain especially to the delegation that what took place in Syria was not a sectarian conflict, and that Sunnis were not massacred. And the Damascus regime shows the U.S. and Israel as the address to bloody events taking place in the country. The objective is to convince a party with a certain political stance such as Felicity Party on this subject. The moment the Damascus regime convinces on this issue, the regime designs to contribute to the legitimacy of its future acts across the country. The Felicity Party's holding top-level meetings partially depends on it. The regime is considering every possible method in order not to lose the legitimate ground. And the regime wants to take advantage of the influence of Necmettin Erbakan factor on Turkey and the region; despite the fact that the party received limited amount of votes in the last elections.
Bahçeli Expected To Damascus
The following target of the Damascus regime, which wants to evaluate Erbakan factor, is nationalist circles in Turkey. The Assad administration wants to turn the fact that Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the MHP, brought forward the question of “Is there any Turkish officers in custody in Syria?”, into an opportunity. Saying that “We have the answer of Bahçeli's question and we would like to welcome him here; if he comes, then he finds the answer of his questions,” the Assad regime wants to kill two birds with one stone. After they partially draw the attention of conservative circles in Turkey away from the Felicity Party, now they will strive to explain themselves to nationalist circles through MHP. They want to win MHP, which is an effective opposition party in Assembly, over like they won over CHP. Thus, the Damascus regime wants to narrow the circle around Prime Minister Erdoğan they set goal themselves, and the regime also wants to maintain their own legitimacy they established on shedding blood. Bahçeli's going to Damascus is one of the most important agenda topics in the country, right now.
Attitude of Assad Regime
Assad regime considerably tries not to take the Turkish public opinion against, in relations with Turkey. As if everyone agreed, the regime tries to reflect the problem between Turkey and Syria like, “We do not have problem with the Turkish people, Prime Minister Erdoğan does not want to understand us,” as the problem of the Turkish government. As a matter of fact, Assad regime tries to show the attitude that Turkey adopted against the Assad regime, by facing the opposition of AK Party government. The whole propaganda of the Damascus regime is placed on the axis of “We have no problem with the Turkish people, Erdoğan does not understand us”.
Syrian Media And Religious Authorities
The Syrian media reflects the position of Damascus Regime the best. The Syrian regime makes the regime propaganda through the media and religious authorities. On visual and written media, frequently the emphasis is stressed on “Turkey is our brother, but its management methods are wrong”. The man in the street is partially convinced to this as well. Considering the sympathy of the Syrian towards Erdoğan and Turkey by stating that “Erdoğan did the right thing in two cases, but now he has a wrong political stance”, referring to the Prime Minister Erdoğan's attitude in Davos and about Mavi Marmara, the propaganda of the Assad regime is pumped through media. As for the Syrian religious authorities: Even during the friday sermon in the Umayyad Mosque, which is one of the most important mosques of Damascus and the Middle East, the Assad regime is defended. Imam, who is informed in advance by the regime, mentions a similar broadcast with the one on the media by knowing Turks are in the mosque during the sermon; “The Turkish are our brothers and sisters. The U.S. and Israel want to create trouble in Syria in order to split Muslims. We should act together in order not be like Iraq and Libya.” However, the conversation meetings, which are carried out after the prayer in Umayyad Mosque, are not the same as before. While the popular religious authorities of the region used to form conversation circles, it is not quite possible to see those circled today.
Current Situation in Damascus
After the events broke out, Damascus has been longing for its old days. In Damascus, which is one of the headquarters of the Middle East, life stops especially as of the evening hours. Even during the shopping tours of the delegation under the supervision of the Syrian administration, the pressure on the people is felt. Although the Assad administration give speech in Damascus, the life in Damascus tells the opposite. As of 6 pm, the life in the capital comes to a standstill. The restaurants have no customers. Even in the restaurants, where the administration brings the delegation to, almost no one else is found other than the delegation. Besides, the number of people with uniforms has increased 4-5 times in Damascus, compared to usual times. It is possible to see soldier or police officer on every corner.
Current Situation in Homs
The current situation in Homs, which is one of the centers that the insurrection fire was started against the Assad regime, is the fact that the regime keeps many things under control. Although it is far away from Damascus, all the official spokesmen of Homs speak in line with the Damascus regime, in all their statements. The Homs Governor Ghassan Abdel Al, who welcomed the journalists, mentions that the events taking place in Syria is caused by foreign powers, with exactly the same statement as in Damascus.
Administrative Body of The Felicity Party in Damascus
The administrative body of the Felicity Party, who went to Damascus upon the invitation of the Assad regime in Syria, has been carrying on their talks for three days. Journalists take place among the group of 20 people. The party delegation, under the leadership of the Chairman of the Felicity Party Mustafa Kamalak, was welcomes quite warmly by the Damascus administration. For three days, people from the Felicity Party were given the message that the people in the country was not massacred by the regime. During the talks, the idea that Syria was on the verge of a civil war and that Turkey should not be a part of it gained importance among the Felicity Party delegation. The events taking place in Syria were considered as not to be a “sectarian conflict”, but to be the U.S. and Israeli trick. The delegation could not find opportunity to talk to the Ikhwan group, which revolted against the Syrian regime. It was indicated that the delegation would turn back to Turkey after talking to Bashar Assad, and then, that they would prepare a “Syrian Report” related to the talks.
Talked To Whom
Kamalak's visit to Syria started with a busy traffic of talks. The visit that Leader of the Felicity Party Mustafa Kamalak and his delegation paid to Syria in a critical process started with a busy traffic of talks. In the morning, Kamalak firstly talked to Musafa Ahmet al-Dabi, the Head of the Arab League Observer Mission. Afterwards, he met with Prof. Najah al-Attar, Vice President of Syria. And then, he talked to the Syrian Minister of Information Adnan Mahmoud, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem, and Syria's Mufti Ahmed Hassan.
Assad: We Live In The Same House, Fire Affects All The Rooms, We Should Extinguish It Together
The Syrian Head of State Bashar Assad, who talked to the Leader of the Felicity Party Mustafa Kamalak, said that “We are brothers and sisters, and we live in the same house. When fire breaks out in different rooms of the house, the other rooms are also negatively affected.” Drawing attention to the fact that Turkey's being influenced by Qatar's policies would result in problems in terms of the balances in the Middle East, Assad said that, “Turkey is a fellow country, she should not tag along with Qatar”.
The leader of the Felicity Party Mustafa Kamalak, who has been carrying his talks in Damascus for three days, talked to the Syrian Head of State Bashar Assad yesterday. The meeting, which was carried out in the Presidential Palace, lasted for approximately 40 minutes, and Kamalak presented Assad with a table with a verse from the Quran on it. During the meeting, which was carried out in a warm atmosphere, Assad sent messages to Turkey.
We Changed History
Assad, who pointed out to believe that there is no problem between the peoples during the meeting, stated that “Others have entered between Turkey and us for 90 years, and this is the first time we have had direct talks and established good relations since 2000. Mr. Sezer participated in the funeral of my father. Since then, there has been a rapid development. We changed history with Turkey in 10 years, we should not let this turn back. I paid several visits to Turkey. I saw the sympathy of the Turkish people. Reforms carry on, and they will. Everybody wants the reforms to happen faster, but it is not easy to move from a house to another one.”
We live in the same house
Stating that first of all they expected Turkey to help them but disappointed when they did not receive it, Assad said that, “We are brothers and sisters, and we live in the same house. If there is a fire in a room, the brothers and sisters in other rooms would also be damaged. We need to extinguish the fire together”.
New Constitution In February
Emphasizing that a new constitution would have been issued by February, Assad said that “We are trying our best, and a new constitution will have been issued by February. We carried out very important reforms before waiting for the new constitution. Everyone waits for the process to end as soon as possible. Even moving from a house to another one takes a great deal of time. We amended the Political Parties Law and Local Administrations Law, and while doing so, we took advantage of the laws in Turkey. However, the intention of the opposition is not the reforms, it is something else.”
We Had Great Expectations
Pointing out the fact that they had great expectations from Turkey, Assad said that, “We could not understand Turkey. Turkey is a big state, and the Turkish are loyal people. However, we have difficulty in understanding the attitude of the government in this process. I am very hopeful, this crisis will be overcome. I encourage and support the formation of opposition. We do not want a good picture of Syria from you. We would like you to tell whatever you see in Turkey, whether it is positive or negative. We desire and wish these two countries to overcome this process without ant damage. Although it seems like they have problems, the institutions and peoples of the two countries have quite good relations with each others.”
Pockets of Imperialists Filled
During the meeting, Leader of the Felicity Party Mustafa Kamalak emphasized that there should be an opposition in Syria, and “It is necessary both in Assembly and on press. We feel sorry for the foreign interferences. Pillage takes place wherever the West goes to. However, brothers should not shed each others' bloods. In Islamic countries, unfortunately the brothers kill each others. The blood shed is Muslim blood, but on the other hand, the weapons used by the two parties belong to imperialists. The Muslims are damaged, while the pockets of imperialists are filled,” he said. During his assessment to journalists after the meeting, Kamalak mentioned that there are huge differences between the Syrian picture that is seen from Turkey and the one they see when they come, and that they want to inform the government on this subject.
Turkey Should Have Sent Observer to Syria As Well
“The Arab League sent a delegation to Syria in order to monitor and observe the events in the country. Regarding the observer delegation to come to our country, we especially used the expression of Arab league and fellow countries. The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) should assume an active role within the process,” Assad stated.
»» Çetiner Çetin / Damascus, Journalist – ORSAM Advisory Board Member