Turkey fired artillery shells into Syria for the fifth day in a row on Sunday, BBC News reported.[1]  --  Since Turkey is a member of NATO, this development is raising widespread fears that the Syrian civil war is spreading to involve other countries, the Associated Press said.[2]  --  Turkey is combining its aggressive stance with "an apparent diplomatic push by the Turkish leadership to promote Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa as a possible figure to head a transitional administration to end the conflict" in Syria, AP said.  --  "Activists say that more than 30,000 people have been killed since the anti-Assad uprising began."  --  In an analysis of Turkey's developing geopolitical strategy, Deutsche Welle reported that "By abandoning its 'soft power' strategy and adopting a 'military deterrence' policy, Turkey risks war with Syria, deeper tension with Iraq, Iran, and Russia."[3]  --  DW quoted Ihsan Dagi, a Turkish international relations professor, who bemoaned Turkey's abandonment of a foreign policy based on Turkish "soft power" in favor of one based on military deterrence....



Middle East


October 7, 2012


Turkish artillery has returned fire on Syria for a fifth day after a mortar landed in a border village.

Five people were killed in a similar incident, reportedly in the same street in the village, Akcakale, last week.

Turkey has been firing daily into Syria since Wednesday's deaths, as apparently stray munitions fall on its territory.

In Damascus, a policeman died when a car bomb went off in the car park of the police headquarters in the Syrian capital, state media reported.

The building in the Fahameh area of the city was said to have been damaged in the bombing, described as a "terrorist attack" by the Sana news agency.

Witnesses reported hearing heavy gunfire after the explosion.


During the day, fighting intensified in Syria's second city Aleppo, with fierce battles in two rebel-held neighborhoods.

AFP news agency reported that warplanes were bombarding the districts of Bab al-Hadid and Shaar.

Syrian forces are also said to be on the offensive in Damascus and Homs.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports said rebels had captured a government outpost near the Turkish border province of Hatay.

Clashes in the area in recent days have led to several mortar bombs landing on the Turkish side from Syria, prompting Turkish forces to return fire.

The rebels are fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government in an uprising that began in March last year.

According to activists, more than 30,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Assad began.  The U.N. estimates that at least 20,000 have died.


Sunday's shell in Akcakale landed in the grounds of a public building near the center of the village, but there were no casualties as people had already been evacuated, Turkish NTV said.

Media and local officials said Turkey immediately returned fire.  An Associated Press journalist said at least six mortars could be heard.

Wednesday's incident in Akcakale triggered international condemnation.

The U.N. Security Council said the incident showed the "grave impact" of the Syrian crisis on "regional peace and stability."

Turkey's retaliation was the first time Ankara had taken military action across the border since the Syrian uprising began.

And on the next day, Turkey's parliament authorized troops to launch cross-border operations and strike at Syrian targets for a period of one year.

On Friday, Turkey moved tanks and anti-aircraft missiles into Akcakale, though Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country did not want war.



Associated Press
October 7, 2012


Turkey and Syria fired artillery and mortars across their volatile border for a fifth consecutive day on Sunday, in one of the most serious and prolonged flare-ups of violence along the frontier.

The exchange of fire stoked fears that Syria's civil war will escalate into a regional conflagration drawing in NATO member Turkey, once an ally of President Bashar Assad but now a key supporter of the rebels fighting to topple him.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had warned on Saturday that Ankara would respond forcefully to each errant Syrian shell that lands on Turkish soil.

Ankara's warning was coupled by an apparent diplomatic push by the Turkish leadership to promote Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa as a possible figure to head a transitional administration to end the conflict in the country.

In an interview with Turkish state television TRT Saturday, Davutoglu said that al-Sharaa was a figure "whose hands are not contaminated in blood" and therefore acceptable to Syrian opposition groups.

It was not clear whether the Turkish stance was coordinated with other allies, but the candid remarks by Davutoglu suggested some consensus might be emerging over a future role for him.

Al-Sharaa, 73, a close associate and longtime loyalist to the Assad family, has been a controversial figure since the start of the uprising.

He appeared in public in late August for the first time in weeks, ending repeated rumors that he had defected. The regime has suffered a string of prominent defections in recent months, though Assad's inner circle and military have largely kept their cohesive stance behind him.

Early on in the uprising, the Syrian president delegated to al-Sharaa, a skilled diplomat, responsibility for holding a dialogue with the opposition.  A Sunni from the southern town of Daraa, birthplace of the Syrian uprising, al-Sharaa's silence since the start of the uprising made him a prime candidate for rumors that he broke with the regime.

"No one knows the system better than Farouk al-Sharaa," said Davutoglu, adding that al-Sharaa has not been involved in the violence and massacres in Syria.

The Syrian opposition is deeply fragmented, and various factions would likely disagree on whether they would accept him to lead a transitional government.

Meanwhile, there was little sign that the exchange of fire near the border, although still at a fairly low level, was ebbing.  It began five days ago when a Syrian shell killed five civilians in a Turkish border town.  Turkey's parliament subsequently approved a bill that would allow cross border military operations there.

Damascus offered a rare apology, but shells and mortar rounds continue to fly into Turkish territory.

On Sunday, an Associated Press journalist witnessed a round landing some 200 yards inside Turkey, near the border town of Akcakale.  A short time later, eight artillery shells could be heard fired from Turkey.

In the Turkish town of Akcakale, mayor Abdulhakim Ayhan said shrapnel from the Syrian mortar round caused some damage to a grain depot, but no one was hurt.  He confirmed that Turkish artillery immediately returned fire.

The Anadolu Agency reported that Assad's forces have been shelling the town of Tal Abyad, just across from Akcakale, which is controlled by Syrian rebels.

Turkey's private Dogan news agency reported that a six-vehicle military convoy, including two carrying howitzers, was seen traveling from the city of Gaziantep toward the Syrian border.

Inside Syria, forces loyal to Assad clashed with rebels across the country, from the northern city of Aleppo to the southern border with Jordan, killing according to activist groups at least 90 people across the country.  Activists said opposition fighters were strengthening their hold over the village off Khirbet al-Jouz, in the northern province of Idlib, which borders Turkey and where violent clashes broke out a day earlier.

The Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency said Sunday that the rebels had regained full control of Khirbet al-Jouz.  It said the Syrian army was forced to "pull back" following an "offensive" by some 700 rebels.

It also reported that Assad's troops were forced to retreat some 12 miles toward the town of Jisr al-Shughour.  It said rebels in Khirbet al-Jouz celebrated their victory by firing their weapons into the air.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime forces pulled out of two villages in the Idlib countryside near Turkey.  In Khirbet al-Jouz, wounded Syrian soldiers were left to fend for themselves after government troops were forced to retreat from the area, the Observatory said.

The reports could not be independently confirmed, and it was not clear whether the wounded soldiers were captured by the rebels.

In Damascus, a car bomb exploded in the parking lot of the local police headquarters in central Damascus, killing one member of the military, the state-run SANA news agency said.  The explosion is the latest in a series of bombs and suicide attack targeting security personnel and government institutions.

Elsewhere, Syrian troops were widening their offensive to retake rebel-held areas in the northern city of Aleppo and the suburbs of Damascus, as well as the central province of Homs and villages on the southern border with Jordan.

The Observatory said some of the heaviest fighting Sunday was in Aleppo province. At least three people were killed and scores were wounded when the army pounded the town of Manbaj in Aleppo's suburbs.

Syria's defense minister said Saturday that the government is ready to give amnesty to rebels who repent and those who don't "will be crushed under the feet of our soldiers."

Gen. Fahd Jassem al-Freij, who became defense minister in July after his predecessor was assassinated, also claimed that the regime was getting the upper hand.  "The most dangerous parts of the conspiracy have been passed and the killing is on its way to decline," he said.

Damascus denies it is facing a popular uprising, instead blaming the violence on a foreign conspiracy to punish it for its support for anti-Israeli groups such as Lebanon's Hezbollah.

Despite the government's claims of being on the brink of restoring stability, the violence across the country shows no signs of abating.  Activists say that more than 30,000 people have been killed since the anti-Assad uprising began.



Deutsche Welle
October 7, 2012


By abandoning its "soft power" strategy and adopting a "military deterrence" policy, Turkey risks war with Syria, deeper tension with Iraq, Iran, and Russia.

The escalation of the crisis with Syria has forced Turkey's Islamic-conservative AKP government to adopt a more aggressive stance on foreign policy and added to the worries of a broader conflict in the region.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Damascus on Friday (05.10.2012) that Ankara would not shy away from war if provocations by Syrian forces continued.

"We are not war-lovers, but we are not far from war either," Erdogan said.  "The saying goes:  Prepare for war if you wish for peace."

Erdogan's warning came a day after Turkish parliament passed a year-long mandate that approved cross-border military action against Syria, if it's deemed necessary.

On Wednesday, a Syrian shell killed five civilians in the Turkish border town of Akcakale, creating uproar in Turkey.  Since then Turkish military is returning fire for each Syrian shell that has struck Turkish soil.  Damascus has claimed the shells that landed in Turkey were accidents during operations against armed opponents, but Ankara has regarded them as deliberate provocations.


Turkey and Syria traded artillery fire for a fourth consecutive day on Saturday.  Ankara has continued to deploy more troops to its southern border with Syria on Sunday, raising concerns that the conflict may escalate.

Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said on Saturday that parliamentary authorization was designed as a deterrent to further violence.

"We haven't taken this step with the intention of war,” Davutoglu told Turkey's TRT television.  "But from now on whenever there is an attack on Turkey, it will be silenced."

Polls showed that majority of Turks are against a war with Syria and many Turkish observers agreed that neither Turkey nor Syria has a desire for a war.  But possible attacks along the border remain a growing concern.  Ankara has signaled that it may launch a cross-border operation if it also feels threatened by separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its alleged Syrian branch, the Democratic Union Party (PYD).

Another worrying development according to observers is Ankara's major policy change.  Turkey's more aggressive stance against Syria portends deeper tensions with Turkey and Syria's allies, Iraq, Iran, and Russia.


Turkey's warning of war has been the boldest move so far demonstrating a major shift in AKP's foreign policy, from a "soft power" strategy to one of "military deterrence."

During the past 10 years of the AKP rule, Davutoglu's strategy of "zero problem with neighbors" shaped Turkey's new foreign policy.  The foreign minister said there was no place for "military threats" in this new foreign policy vision, dialogue, and diplomacy will be the main tools and regional cooperation would be the main priority.

Syria had been the cornerstone of Islamic-conservative AKP's new pro-active foreign policy, which aimed at developing close political, economic, and cultural ties with the countries in Turkey's neighborhood, areas once ruled by the Ottoman Empire.

Davutoglu was criticized by the opponents for "Neo-Ottoman adventures," but he denounced the criticism.  Western pressure did not prevent the AKP government from enhancing close relations with repressive regimes, including those of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran, Muammar Gadhafi in Libya, and Bashar Assad in Syria.


The Turkish government's main priority had been to expand Turkey's area of influence.  Until 2011, Turkey and Syria were close allies.  Davutoglu made dozens of visits to Damascus, resisted Western pressure, and tried to gain leverage over the Syrian regime.

The AKP's zero-problem policy was first challenged by the Arab Spring uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East.  The Turkish government's great ambitions to be a regional power and an agenda-setting country in the Middle East faced an even greater challenge in neighboring Syria.

Soon after the uprising began in Syria in March 2011, Turkey first adopted a cautious approach and tried to convince Assad for a controlled change.  But Assad's reluctance for reform and disproportionate use of force against protestors caused deep frustration among Turkish leaders and after August 2011 they adopted a hardliner position against Assad's rule.

With the fear of losing influence in its immediate neighborhood, Turkish government gave strong support for the Syria opposition and offered logistical support to the armed opposition groups.  The question of al Qaeda's presence among the armed opposition groups, the strength of radical Islamists and jihadists among them continue to be a major concern for Western countries.


In its policy to oust Assad, Turkey joined forces with two other Sunni countries:  Saudi Arabia and Qatar.  This has further undermined Turkey's close relations with Shiite majority countries, Iran and Iraq's Maliki-led government, which have been closely allied with Assad.

Two years ago, the Turkish government gained momentum in Tehran and brokered a nuclear deal to offer a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear crisis.  But after the Syria crisis, Iran's military leaders continue to publicly warn Turkey for its Syria policy.

Ankara's already tense relations with Iraq's Shiite-led government are expected to further strain this month, as Turkish government is seeking to extend a mandate to send Turkish troops to northern Iraq to fight PKK militants.


Davutoglu's controversial policies, which also led to deep tensions with Israel, now face growing criticism, not only from the opposition, but also from intellectuals who had long supported the AKP as a transformative power for Turkey.

One of those liberal intellectuals, international relations professor Ihsan Dagi warned Turkey is making mistakes and risks not only broader conflicts with its neighbors, but also losing all the domestic democratic achievements of the past decade.

"[As Turkey] we have put aside our soft power and attempted to design our neighborhood with our military might," Dagi wrote in his column at the daily Zaman.  "We turned away from being an admired country and sought to become a country that is feared by others.  We made mistakes, big mistakes."

Davutoglu and AKP's "zero problem" policy had challenged traditional, nationalist, and isolationist Turkish foreign policy, introduced a new foreign policy activism, but failed to yield concrete and positive results.  Today it left Turkey with almost "zero friends" in its immediate neighborhood.

According to Dagi, Turkey will continue to be an emerging power in world politics, but failures of Turkish government in foreign policy are putting Turkey into a difficult position of facing off against unpredictable threats.

"Ironically today, the utopia of the old regime of Turkey has turned into reality," Dagi said.  "Turkey is now surrounded by enemies."