“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Entangling Alliances

Turkey parliament gives green light for Syria operations
By: AFP | October 05, 2012 |

AKCAKALE - Turkey’s parliament on Thursday authorised military action against Syria but insisted it was not a war mandate following deadly cross-border fire that sent tensions soaring.The vote came as Turkey retaliated for the shelling that killed five Turkish nationals, and Syria apologised and vowed it would not happen again. 

At the Security Council, Russian objections to a draft statement condemning Syria’s deadly shelling sent the UN body back into consultations. The draft had been expected to be approved by a ‘silence procedure’ — the text is considered adopted if no country objects — but “the Russians broke the silence,” Britain ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters.

He did not give details on the Russian objections. The draft statement condemns “in the strongest terms” the Syrian strike against Turkey, saying the shellings “constitute a serious threat to international peace and security.”

With Western powers urging restraint, the US said it was outraged and France cautioned the incident had threatened global security. In Ankara, the Turkish parliament met behind closed doors in an emergency session and agreed to the government’s request to authorise military operations inside Syrian territory.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay told reporters that Syria had admitted responsibility for the shelling. He stressed that the parliament’s decision was “not a war mandate”, adding however that it would have a deterrent effect.“Turkey has no interest in a war with Syria. 

But Turkey is capable of protecting its borders and will retaliate when necessary,” Ibrahim Kalin, chief advisor to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said earlier on Twitter.

The incident prompted a forecast that it could tip events in favour of the rebels fighting to bring down President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.“The Syrian regime is playing a dangerous game,” said Riad Kahwaji, who heads the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA).

“Turkey can considerably change the balance of power in favour of the rebels, even it doesn’t deploy troops into Syria, and limits itself to using its firepower.”

Ankara unleashed artillery shells at its neighbour late on Wednesday after mortar fire crashed on to the Turkish border town of Akcakale.
A Turkish mother and her three children were among five civilians killed in Akcakale. As they were buried on Thursday, debris still littered the spot where they died.

The shell smashed through a wall, landing in a courtyard near an olive tree where they had come to prepare their evening meal. Damascus’s close ally Russia said Syria had admitted that the deadly shelling was “a tragic accident”. It marked the first time that Turkish citizens had been killed by Syrian fire since the uprising against Assad’s regime began in March 2011.

Several Syrian soldiers were killed as a result of the Turkish riposte, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog said, without giving an exact figure.

Turkey had demanded that the UN Security Council take action against Damascus over Wednesday’s fire, which drew sharp Western condemnation.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington was “outraged”, while France said it constituted “a serious threat to global security and peace.” 

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the incident was “completely unacceptable not only for Turkey but for the international community as a whole”.

Amid the rising tensions, calls for calm poured in. The European Union condemned Syria but urged restraint on all sides, while Germany called for a “de-escalation”, “a measured handling of this worsening situation.”

Syria’s main ally Iran also sought to cool tempers, asking “both sides to show restraint.” In a crisis meeting late on Wednesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government drew up a motion asking parliament to allow it to conduct operations inside Syria, like the bombing raids that the army regularly carries out against suspected Kurdish rebel bases in neighbouring Iraq.

The 550-seat parliament complied Thursday, approving a one-year mandate by 320 votes. Akcakale and the surrounding region had come under stray fire from Syria for several weeks as government and rebels battle for a border post, forcing the closure of some 100 schools and prompting the government to advise people to stay away.

Previously the most serious incident between Turkey and Syria was in June, when Syria shot down a Turkish fighter jet that had briefly strayed into its airspace, killing the two crewmen. Following Wednesday’s shelling, Nato member Turkey called an emergency meeting of the alliance and demanded action from the UN Security Council over what it called a “heinous” attack.

Nato said that it stood by its member Turkey and urged the Syrian regime to end “flagrant violations of international law” that it described as “a clear and present danger” to an ally.

Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi reiterated his government’s charges that it was battling foreign-backed “terrorists” whom it has frequently accused Ankara of training and financing.


  1. This increasingly murky and unpredictable situation is not something outside powers, including NATO members, want to be drawn directly into if it can be avoided.

    However, the current tension between Syria and Turkey is a warning of just how easily an already dangerous situation can get out of hand with no one able to predict or control what may follow next.

    Because of the dangers this represents for both the Syrian population and the always volatile Middle East it’s imperative that major powers reach an early agreement to establish some form of direct UN intervention to head off an even wider conflagration in the region.

  2. The Ottoman Empire II? It doesn't sound all "that" bad, does it? :)

  3. The Turks have shed bblood, standing shoulder to shoulder with US.

    More than can be said for any other nation state in the Middle East.

  4. Big Bird is about to get fired, and you're worrying about Syria? And, Turkey?

    Have ye no Humanity?

  5. Worry? We have no need to worry...

  6. President Mittens is going to expand the military by 100,000 troops.
    Gotta do something with those new hires.

  7. Oil fell in New York and headed for a third weekly decline on speculation the biggest gain in two months yesterday was exaggerated amid rising supplies.

    Futures slid as much as 0.4 percent after surging 4.1 percent yesterday on concern tension between Turkey and Syria will disrupt Middle East output. Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s biggest crude producer, sees no difficulty in meeting demand, according to Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi.


    Prices surged yesterday as Turkey’s parliament authorized the government to order military action in Syria after a mortar bomb fired across the border on Oct. 3 killed five Turks. The decision highlights the risk that neighboring countries may be drawn into Syria’s civil war.

  8. In Istanbul, about 5,000 people took to the city centre yesterday evening in a peaceful anti-war protest, which also turned into a demonstration against Mr Erdogan's ruling AK Party.

    "The AKP wants war, the people want peace!" "No to war, peace right now!" the crowds chanted as police looked on.

    Turkey is sheltering more than 90,000 refugees from Syria and fears a mass influx similar to the flight of half a million Iraqi Kurds into Turkey after the 1991 Gulf War.