Turkey is the main agitator in the ongoing crisis that erupted in Syria more than two years ago, a political commentator tells Press TV.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has praised US-Turkish cooperation in making efforts to topple the Syrian government. Kerry also described Ankara and Tel Aviv as anchors of stability in the Middle East. The US and Turkey, along with some Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have supported militants in Syria.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Danny Makki, the co-founder of the Syrian Youth in Britain (SYB), from London. Makki is joined by Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, California. The following is a rough transcription of the interview with Makki.
Press TV: Mr. Makki first of all do you agree that the foreign-backed war on Syria is losing momentum as some have been saying?
Makki: In some sense you have to argue that the desire for intervention is decreasing. Ultimately, the powers which have created this crisis regionally and internationally are facing many blocks in terms of really forcing a regime change situation in Syria. This is manifested by Turkey’s lack of real intervention also NATO stated that they will not intervene directly in the Syria crisis nor do they have the desire to really take any sort of military steps into seeking regime change.
Countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar are really alone in this crisis. The European Union and the United States of America have reached a point of really lacking the credibility and their own desire for forcing the type of changes in the government inside of Syria.
So, we could argue that there is a quagmire internally speaking in terms of regional and international politics. Syria has become an issue that is discussed regularly, but there is no real initiative or anything which can really take it to a political solution at the end of the day.
Ultimately you have the rebels who will reject any political settlement and are keen on militarizing the conflict and entering the new phase which they described as the great battle for Damascus.
Press TV: So, back to Mr. Makki on this. Mr. Pipes is suggesting there that with the amount of support that the fighters, the militants there have it’s going to happen sooner or later; they are going to be able to win this war. Do you agree with that?
Makki: No, I do not agree. I don’t think that it is a prerequisite or a preconceived notion that the rebels will win. We ultimately understand that the Syrian army is a conventional army, which has more years in training, has weapon systems and has the logistical and communication support to really deal these armed groups a hard defeat in terms of the military sense. But, I really fail to comprehend how anyone can state that it is a civil war. It is by no means a Syrian on Syrian crisis, a Syrian on Syrian war; this is manifested by the thousands of foreign fighters in Syria. We could argue that there is a regional war; it is a proxy war at best, but not a Syrian civil war as he stated from the USA.
What we ultimately have now is the presence of thousands of European jihadists coming from European countries and thousands of jihadists coming from Arab countries. So, Syria is ultimately turned into a theatre for jihad and a theatre for terrorism – one that does really threaten the future of the region.
The radicalization internally speaking in Syria does threaten the future of Syria. This also poses a significant predicament to the security of the whole of the wider Middle East, also the wider Muslim and Arab world. You have to understand that Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey; these are all states which will not be able to maintain a level of political stability, internally speaking, as long as the flow of armies to Islamist groups in Syria is continuous.
Press TV: So you’re [Mr. Pipes] saying that the difference with Syria when you compare it for instance to Tunisia or Libya is that their leaders there step down more quickly or the fight now that the Syrian government is having with the militants is a more aggressive fight. Mr. Makki, would you say that that is the difference with the situation in Syria?
Makki: The real difference between the situation in Syria and what’s happened in other Arab countries is that in other Arab countries you had more of a peaceful uprising; in Syria you had violence from the very first day and in Syria you have the presence of Israel, which is what ultimately makes the United States of America more cautious in taking steps towards the Syria crisis.
The main reason America wants to keep eyes and observe what is happening in Syria is because of the border of Israel. They see that with moving the Assad government in this current moment in time would be beneficial for the future security of Israel as Assad has supported many of Israel’s enemies and has taken a stance which is anti-Israeli…
So, what we argue is that this is a concept that relates to the new Middle East as [Israeli President Shimon] Peres has described it as carving out a new future for the Middle East and the Arab world.
One which is with the hegemony of the United States of America, one where you have states that do not allow for their own sovereignty to be kept intact. What we essentially have is puppet states, like we have in the Gulf of Arab states like Qatar and Saudi Arabia states, which are strategic allies to the United States of America.
So, in Syria we could argue that the geopolitical element and the geostrategic element as well is much larger than many of the Arab countries. What we have now is an indirect intervention in Syria by many regional Arab and non-Arab states. What we have is a direct proxy war between states such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and United States who all seek to destroy the Iranian resolve in the region.
We all understand that Syria and Iran have the greatest strategic alliance in the Middle East and America seek to target Iran by destroying Syria, so it is very clear from a geopolitical perspective.
Ultimately we could argue that the presence of the thousands of foreign radical fighters, their links with al-Qaeda, shows that the Western powers now are essentially allied non-directly with the radical Islamic movements in the region such as the al-Nusra Front. But also, one great differentiation is that the Muslim Brotherhood in these extremist elements in Tunisia and Egypt and Libya are very different from the type which has evolved in Syria.
The Muslim Brotherhood in Syria has a very atrocious record of human rights. It is an organization which is sectarian and which is brutally and in a militant sense, is a very militant armed wing of political Islam, which is near to al-Qaeda. You cannot argue that the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria or al-Nusra Front is very similar to the ones in Tunisia or Libya or in fact Egypt. So, there is an ultimate problem of terminology.
Press TV: A lot of people on this [subject], Mr. Makki, have been saying that there are two groups rather than three groups of countries involved here. One group would include Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, the other would be the US, Britain, France, Turkey and Israel; and they’re saying that these two groups specifically have the same goal of overthrowing Assad’s government, at the same time however they differ on what kind of government should come after Assad. While one group is looking for what they say a Wahabi Salafists government, the other one is looking for a Western affiliated government and they’re saying that’s what’s making this crisis prolonged. Would you agree with that?
Makki: Well it depends how you really want to qualify this. We could argue that there is a group as you said Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who seek an extremist-Islamist government inside of Syria to promote their geopolitical, ideological, and religious interests in the region.
To give them as the example, Turkey with the Islamic democracy is in secular, having a secular state but, with those Islamist parties, or you have this mix of ideologies between secularism and Islamism. However, the concept in Syria of this mix of ideologies is impossible as the majority of Syrians that are secular, they reject extremists. Even the Islamists in Syria were respectively moderate before this crisis. Syria is a state which is famed for its moderation.
The Western countries seek a political interest which is different from that of the Gulf countries. Now the main funding is coming from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, however the flow of arms is coming from Turkey. Now Turkey is involved with NATO and Turkey’s alliances with the West are as strong as Saudi Arabia’s and Qatar’s. So, you could arguably blame Turkey as more than all of these other states for the crisis and the lack of stability in Syria.
The Turkish borders are open and the flow of arms which is coming from Croatia, as stated by the New York Times, through other states; the 600 European jihadists, they’re all coming through Turkey. Turkey is the main agitator in the Syria crisis. Turkey is essentially committing political suicide because its own population rejects the fact that it supports the armed opposition.
We cannot necessarily argue that this armed opposition has any relation to democracy. Your guest from America stated that an Alawite dictatorship. First of all the concept of dictatorship is completely irrelevant in this current moment of time now, because the opposition are using more dictatorial methods than the current government. We could argue that the countries in the [Persian] Gulf Arab states, which support the uprising are much more dictatorial that the Syrian government and remain more dictatorial and have no social riots.
So, it is not an issue of democracy. The al-Nusra Front do not adhere to the concept of democracy.
So what it is, it is this struggle between moderation and radicalization – a struggle between moderate Islam as represented by the Mukhtar Sheikh al-Bouti (top Sunni cleric Mohammed Saeed al-Bouti) and the Syrian government against the extremist radical fundamentalist Islam, which is supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar – a religious and political fault line.
We could argue now that the United States seeks to prolong the Syria crisis so both sides kill each other and the United States can essentially pursue their geopolitical hegemonic interests with a loss of life, which doesn’t really affect them.
The United States does not want a victory for the Syrian rebels or the Syrian government, so it is deadlocked in terms of the United States of America.
Press TV: You [Mr. Pipes] say there the United States deciding that the Syrian government is no longer legitimate as far as it’s concerned. Now countries like Russia, Iran and China; these are countries that have been saying that we are looking for a political solution to the situations here. I’d just like to go back to Mr. Makki on this; your concluding remarks Mr. Makki. Do you think these countries that are looking and are pressing for this political solution can actually succeed in bringing about that solution with the international activity that is going on right now?
Makki: Well first of all we do not any longer live in a world which is controlled by the United States of America. Ultimately the government takes its own legitimacy from its own people. Who are the United States or the European Union to give or take legitimacy from a state? What we have to ultimately understand that there are people who support the Syrian government and in tandem give it legitimacy.
It is not a concept of wanting to live in Syria or not. Syria in 2004 was the fourth safest country in the whole of the Arab world. Syria is a country where there are more social freedoms than Saudi Arabia, Qatar or the whole of the [Persian] Gulf Arab states put together. Syria is one of the most historic states in the region.
What we have to ultimately argue is that there is an emergence of a new block of power, the BRICS (group of emerging economies Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) states; Russia, China, Iran, states which support state sovereignty and reject interference in the internal affairs of other states. What these states do is support a political situation in Syria, reject the arming of these armed groups by the West and by Saudi Arabia and Qatar and try to project a state of status quo to the United States hegemony over this world and over this region.
So, what we ultimately have is a balancing act between the United States of America, their regional allies and Russia, Iran and China’s status quo, which allowed there to be a level of balancing between these two sides – which creates a proxy war situation in Syria. However, Russia, Iran and China will never allow the Syrian government to be taken out of power through force or by NATO military intervention.