Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Victory Of Damascus Is In…Ankara!

By Elias Harfoush 

The strength of countries lies in their internal immunity rather than in the functions and roles they play on the external level. This is proven once again by the developments of the crisis in Syria and its outcomes, which include the regression of the Syrian role from its former positions of power. This is confirmed by the growing Turkish role in the region’s events and policies, from Palestine to Libya, as well as the Turkish position regarding the Syrian events.

As a result of this growing role and the excessive Turkish confidence, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was able to stand on the balcony of his party’s headquarters to celebrate his electoral victory and to announce that “the victory of Ankara is that of Damascus, and the victory of Izmir is that of Beirut, and the victory of Diar Bakr is that of the West Bank and Jerusalem and Gaza”…
For decades, Damascus made use of its regional extensions on the Palestinian arena, and in Lebanon, Iraq, and sometimes all the way to Egypt and the Gulf countries in order to gain external support that would protect the regime and provide it with power. From the repeated interferences in Lebanon; to the participation of the Syrian Baath regime in supporting the Western alliance against the Iraqi Baath forces in the war of the liberation of Kuwait; to using the relationship with Iran in order to serve the Syrian project… The swaps used to be based on luring the external world, particularly the Western one, by playing the required parts in the different crises in order to serve the objectives and purposes of the foreign sides in return for providing a cover for internal legitimacy. This swap – with its well known objectives – never prevented the Syrian media from depicting the external support as being biased toward Syrian immunity and “opposition”, based on the so-called “central” role of Damascus in the regional situation.

By gaining this external legitimacy, the regime did not think that the internal front was an important one. There was a conviction that internal support, i.e. the one provided by the people to the party and to the “leader of the state and the society” is granted as long as this party is performing the regional tasks required by the nationalistic battle “that rises above every other voice.”
In the face of this situation, the Syrian regime today finds itself in a quandary. It has lost the card of external support it used to enjoy, and which it used to seek to obtain for its regional roles. It has also lost the internal card that it had neglected for a long time because it had been busy with these [external] roles instead of caring for the political, social, and daily livelihood issues that represent the daily concern of Syrian citizens, in the same way they represent the daily concerns of any other citizen in a normally-structured country. The Syrian regime has discovered – as reminded by its friend Erdogan a few days ago – that it is difficult for anyone to defend the oppression practiced on the internal front, even from the part of a side that supports the Syrian regime. This is even harder for the adversaries who have been warning the Syrian regime, after the latest events, that it is threatened with “losing its legitimacy.”

On the other hand, the latest Turkish elections and the popular support gained by the Justice and Development party headed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan provide lessons about the importance of building the internal political immunity that represents the main basis in confronting the external interests and “conspiracies” in case they do exist. The strength of the democratic regime that Turkey currently enjoys is what protects it in the face of the recent crises, including the confrontation with the Israeli politics, the difficulties to join the European Union, and the reservations concerning the roles of NATO in Libya and elsewhere, while Turkey is actually an active member in NATO. Erdogan could not have taken such stances or raised his voice in the face of the Western forces, if he did not share a platform with these forces – the platform of legitimacy and democratic rule that allows him to speak in the name of 75 million Turkish citizens.
The strength of the popular base is protecting the regime and not vice versa. Pending a similar force that would allow the Syrians to raise their voices, the regime will keep looking – to no avail – for external functions in order to cover for its neglect on the domestic level of its people’s affairs.

This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 14/06/2011

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