SYRIA: REGIME CHANGE AND SMART POWER
The rise and fall of Turkey's Erdogan
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has done all he can to destabilize Syria, so Israel will now take over. Erdogan, though dreaming of being a Muslim leader, belongs ultimately to the new "smart power" Washington - and he is not the right man to drive the sharp knife home into the Assad regime's back. - M K Bhadrakumar
Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.
Israel's emergence from the woodwork can signal only one thing: the Syrian crisis is moving towards the decisive phase. The lights have been switched on in the operation theatre and the carving of Syria is beginning. What is going to follow won't be a pretty sight at all since the patient is not under anesthesia, and the chief surgeon prefers to lead from behind while sidekicks do the dirty job.
So far, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have done the maximum they could to destabilize Syria and remove the regime headed byÂ
President Bashar al-Assad. But Bashar is still holding out. Israeli expertise is now needed to complete the unfinished business.
....Salafism on Israeli wings
However, in the final analysis, only Israel can resolve Erdogan's dilemma. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak stated over the weekend, "Syria has advanced anti-aircraft missiles, surface-to-surface missiles and elements of chemical weapons. I directed the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] to prepare for a situation where we will need to consider the possibility of an attack."
Barak added that the "moment [Bashar] starts to fall, we [Israel] will conduct intelligence monitoring and will liaise with other agencies." He spoke after a secret visit by Donilon to Israel the previous weekend. Close on the heels of Donilon's consultations, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton travelled to Tel Aviv after a historic meeting in Cairo with the newly elected President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, who assured Washington that he wouldn't contemplate creating any problems for Israel in a conceivable future.
Barak's disclosure tears apart the thin veil of indifference that Tel Aviv so far maintained over the Syrian developments. What emerges, in retrospect, is that Washington kept Israel in abeyance for the ripe moment to physically demolish Bashar's war machinery, an enterprise that Erdogan is unwilling or incapable of undertaking.
Most certainly, Erdogan was in the loop that he was going to partner Barak, but being a shrewd politician he kept up an appearance of agonizing publicly over the Syrian crisis - while, of course, covertly fueling it.
Simply put, Washington has outwitted Moscow and Beijing. It kept assuring Russia and China that a military intervention by the US all by itself or a Libya-style NATO operation was the last thing on Obama's mind. No doubt, Obama kept his word.
What is unfolding is a startlingly refreshing sight - Salafism riding the wings of the Israeli air force and landing in Damascus. Erdogan will now set out with renewed vigor to shake up the Bashar tree in Damascus, while any day from now Barak will begin chopping off the tree's branches in a lightning sweep.
Erdogan and Barak will make the Bashar tree so naked and helpless that it will realize the futility of standing upright any more. There is no "military intervention" involved here, no NATO operations, no Libya-like analogy can be drawn. Nor is Erdogan to order his army to march into Syria.
Secretary of State Clinton would say this is the "smart power". In a magnificent essay titled "The Art of Smart Power" penned by her last week, as she surveyed the curious twist to the tale of the Arab Spring, Clinton wrote that the US is nowadays "leading in new ways".
(The art of smart power, New Statesman, July 18, 2012)
Clinton underscored that US is expanding its "foreign-policy toolbox [to] integrate every asset and partner, and fundamentally change the way we [US] do business ... [the] common thread running through all our efforts is a commitment to adapt America's global leadership for the needs of a changing world."
At the end of the day, Erdogan will bite the bullet, which is greased with pork fat. The plain truth is that Israel is going to complete the messy job for him in Syria.
Erdogan has no choice but to accept that he belongs to Washington's "toolbox" - nothing more, nothing less. He was never destined for the role to lead the Muslim Middle East. The West was merely pandering to his well-known vanity. That role is Washington's exclusive prerogative.