The Syrian regime continues to violently suppress protests while its largest neighbor, Turkey, is taking on a more threatening tone towards these actions. On Friday, a Turkish government official told the Hurriyet Turkish daily on condition of anonymity, that the government is not ruling out international intervention against the Assad regime if it does not stop using violence to suppress its own people.
The source also told Hurriyet that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu delivered a letter to Assad last Tuesday from Turkish President Abdullah Gul. The letter represents what Turkey considers an ultimatum: if violence by Syrian troops continues, Assad will no longer be able to rely on Turkey as a friend.
“Up until eight months ago, we were trying to convince our Western allies to give some more time for Assad to implement reforms,” the source told Hurriyet. “We were as friendly as to convene joint Cabinet meetings and lift visas; but if a regime is not listening to the advice of its friend and neighbor and continues opening fire on its own people, that regime can no longer be Turkey’s friend.”
Turkey has already taken steps to bolster their message. Turkish media sources reported on Saturday that two army units stationed on the Turkish-Syrian border were reinforced with extra soldiers over the course of last week and a number of military officers have returned early from vacations. Turkey is also considering establishing a security buffer zone inside Syrian territory, in part, to prevent the infiltration of members of the Kurdish resistance who might try to take advantage of the situation to create a security threat whithin Turkey.
Despite international condemnations, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is still encouraging Assad. He called on demonstrators not to be “terrorists against their own state” and recently joined a commercial delegation to Damascus. Al-Maliki has strong ties with the Shi’ite majority in Iraq, most of which supports Assad. Al-Maliki expressed their commitment also to Iran, which he says is necessary to preserve stability in Syria.
Iran continues to back Assad, pledging financial assistance over the weekend for the building of a new military base at the international airport in Latakia, named after Bassil Assad, Bashar’s brother whose death in a car accident led to the second brother taking over the regime from his father, Hafez. According to Western intelligence sources, the base will be used to funnel weapons to Bashar Assad’s regime.
Meanwhile, the violent suppression continued in Syria over the weekend, with 19 demonstrators killed as a result of military fire, mostly in the areas of Deir Ezzor and Hama.