If and when the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad falls, Turkey will be justified in taking some credit for, and feeling pride in, this historic event.
A great deal of time has passed between the start of the Syrian riots on March 15 and the statement from the Arab League, led by Saudi Arabia, condemning the validity of Assad's violent repression. The U.S. also held its tongue for quite some time, refraining from making a comment until Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finally said that “Syria would be better off without Assad.” Turkey, through its Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, traditionally a close friend of Syria, was the first to turn its back on its friend and continues to lead the anti-Assad hard line even now, ratcheting up its tone against Assad.
Turkey is a regional power. It also views itself as a potential world power on the same level as China, Russia, India and Brazil (“BRIC countries,” deemed to be at a similar stage of newly advanced economic development), especially in light of America's economic decline. Turkey cannot avoid taking diplomatic action against its problematic neighbor. Ankara not only understood the timing and the Syrian people's great desire to bring about change, but is also well aware that ongoing riots and violence next door could have a massive, negative effect on its own stability. Ankara's primary goal is to protect its own interests, and Syrian instability is a major problem.
Meanwhile, in light of the commotion in Syria, relations between Damascus and Tehran appear to have strengthened. Turkey is not at all happy about this new closeness. We all know that for some time now, Ankara and Tehran have been conducting one of history's most hypocritical love affairs. To add to this romance, in response to the riots, Shiites in Iraq have shifted and now support Assad even more. Sunni Turkey dislikes this development as well.
Erdogan knows that the day might come when Assad, propped up by Shiite support, will try to weaken Turkey, Iran’s natural rival in the region. These actions will be carried out in coordination with the Kurds, another serious threat in Turkey’s eyes. From Turkey’s point of view, a Sunni government in Damascus is the key to a stable future.