|Syrian Gridlock of Turkey and Alternatives|
A major change started in Turkey-Syria relations following March 2011 when the anti-Assad
demonstrations emerged in Syria, and after the vote in UN, both Prime Minister Erdoğan and Minister of Foreign Affairs Davutoğlu gave messages regarding that Syrian regime will pay a price for the massacres in Homs. As a matter of fact, when mass actions first started in Syria in March, Turkey carried out a series of negotiations directly with the Syrian regime, and tried to convince the regime to make reforms. During the talk with President Assad on March 26th, Prime Minister Erdoğan stated his support for the reform decisions taken by the Damascus regime, and he indicated that Turkey stands by Syria. Likewise, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoğlu warned Assad on making reforms during his visits to Syria in April and lastly in August. However, the Assad regime did not pay attention to the warnings of Turkey, and besides, the regime was faced with Turkey's reaction because of the increasing civilian deaths as a result of regime's disproportionate use of force against demonstrators.
Within this framework, approximately 9 months after the crisis in Syria, Turkey had to take steps on completely breaking off her relations with the regime by taking economic, political and diplomatic sanction decisions against Assad regime. Especially after the statement of Prime Minister Erdoğan during a meeting in Istanbul in early August regarding that the Syrian problem is considered as a domestic affair and that they will not remain unresponsive to this problem, the fact that messages, regarding that Turkey will not be a bystander before what is happening, given by Minister of Foreign Affairs Davutoğlu during his talk to President Assad in Damascus was ignored by Assad, gave the signals that the relations would be evolved from tension into a conflict. While Turkey increased her criticisms against the Assad regime at regional and global levels after the sanction decisions were started to be put into practice; Syrian, Iraqi, Lebanese and Iranian news agencies started to accuse Ankara of providing armed groups with military and political support in order to destabilize Syria.
Syrian Gridlock of Turkish Foreign Policy and Strategies To Break The Gridlock
Considering as of February 2012, it is clearly seen that the objective of changing the regime through regional and international pressure lies at the bottom of Turkey's new Syrian policy. It is indicated that certain new initiatives will be developed to this end. This aforesaid initiative is explained as further increasing pressures on Assad regime at regional level. Following the statements of Prime Minister Erdoğan during the group meeting, Minister of Foreign Affairs Davutoğlu clearly indicated both on NTV and in his statements in airport before leaving for the U.S. on February 8th that, “We will put an international initiative into practice again with the Arab League, and we are determined on this subject. There is no way we can sit back and watch this bloody violence. It is important that both our public opinion, our brothers in Syria, and the world public opinion know it,” and thus he put forth that Turkey will not keep quite about Assad regime's using force against its own people. About the foreign intervention, “we do not want to talk about military scenarios. One would not wish that such a period takes place. One would wish that these methods (buffer zone and no-fly zone) do not take place. Hopefully Syria sees that she is increasingly getting isolated and that she will be much more isolated than North Korea, and she gives up all these wrong practices. 
On the other hand, the fact that Turkey harshly criticized both Russia and China after they vetoed UN resolution on Syria draws attention. On the fact sheet, which was officially published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on February 4th, it is stated that “We regretfully condemn the fact that UN Security Council, whose primary responsibility is maintaining international peace and security, will not be able to fulfill its duty because of the aforesaid vetoes”, and it was also indicated that “Veto power of the permanent members of UN Security Council brings about serious responsibility as well”.  In his statements on February 8th, Minister of Foreign Affairs Davutoğlu clearly indicated that vetoes of Russia and China is an incomprehensible attitude and a repercussion of Cold War, as well as adding that they will not let the continuance of cruelty and that they will not let the region's being dragged into instability; and he also brought up the subject of changing the structure of UN which will bring about questioning the veto rights of Russia and China to the agenda. Thus he showed that Turkey is ready to go through a serious problem with Russia on Syria issue. As a matter of fact, right after the vote in UN; while Bashar Assad held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Damascus, Prime Minister Erdoğan declared they would launch a new initiative on Syria, and thus he showed they did not take notice of Russia's initiatives. Following the statements overshadowing Damascus visit of Russia, Prime Minister Erdoğan made a telephone call with Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev onFebruary 8th, and once more put forward Turkey's reaction and expectations. On the other hand, Russia indicated Prime Minister Erdoğan that they are determined to continue their support for Damascus. 
The Syria-centered developments within February show that Turkey will have more intense initiatives to change the Assad regime. Nevertheless, it is seen that the policies pursued by Turkey have not given the desired result yet. At this point, it would be good to analyze major gridlocks and to dwell on alternative suggestions.
Firstly it is thought that the civil unrest in Syria is not supported by the whole Syrian people. The power struggle in Syria has led to ethnic, religious and sectarian cleavages within the Syrian people. Within this scope, from the beginning of the crisis, Turkey has been announcing that she would stand by the Syrian people, in case she has to make a choice between Syrian people and the regime. However, considering as of today, it is seen that the regime has a certain social support for different reasons. It is quite hard to claim that minority groups, which compose almost half of the country, broke off their relations with the regime. For example, any efficient anti-regime protest demonstration has not taken place in Druse, Christian, and Alawi regions and settlements yet. The total population rate of the aforesaid three groups is approximately about 30 per cent. Likewise, it cannot be claimed that Kurds, who compose approximately 12% of the population, highly support the anti-regime protest actions either. In addition to these, the situation of Sunni Arabs, who are in cooperation with the Ba'ath regime in economic, ideologic or political terms, is not different from the others either. Therefore, there is no any considerable solution within the institutions of the regime. However, tens of military commanders, diplomats or other bureaucrats changed sides in the first days of the uprising in Libya. Although approximately 11 months passed over the rebellion in Syria, any solution has not reached yet. Therefore, the first priority of Turkey is to win the confidence and support of the Syrian people, who had to cooperate with the Assad regime. It is necessary to see that currently a negative perception and fear have come up in these aforesaid groups about Turkey's Syrian policy. It is thought that the relation, which was established only with the opposition, does not cover the whole Syrian people. Besides, it should be seen that the Syrian opponents have also turned towards an armed resistance and that this situation will aggravate the social split. The conflicts taking place in Homs and other provinces show that Sunni Arabs have turned towards a total war, which also includes city centers, from guerrilla war. While it is not possible to dissuade the Syrian opponents from military resistance, the regime needs to take the risk of killing 50 to 100 thousand opponents in order to be able to suppress the unrest in Syria. All these scenarios point out that the current split in Syrian society will get more profound. Therefore, the first priority objective Turkey had better launch should be winning the confidence of the Syrian people. In order to do so, it is necessary to announce clear, understandable and practicable policies for the aforesaid groups, and to get in touch with these groups.
More clearly, one of the primary policies should be to reassure people on protecting the rights of Syrian Druses, Alawis, Christians, Kurds, and other minorities about the post-Assad period. The Syrian minority groups should be expected neither to trust in the guarantees of Saudi Arabia nor to trust in the guarantees of the U.S. Turkey should clearly open the channels to establish relations with the whole Syrian people as a principle. At this point, one of the questions needed to be answered is, for instance; what will be the attitude of Turkey towards the Syrian Druses' demands to establish an autonomous structure in their own regions? Likewise, we believe that the Syrian people should already clearly know that what kind of policy Turkey has in face of similar initiatives of Alawis and Kurds.
Secondly, it is necessary to see that the regime in Syria has a certain support fault line both within the country, region and also at global level. It is seen that minority groups within the country, Shia administrations and communities in the region and Russia at global level adopted a foreign policy in favor of maintaining the political structure in Syria. More clearly, other than the internal groups in the country, Hezbollah and Lebanese administration with Hezbollah support, Iraqi Shia groups and the Maliki administration supported by those, and Iran in the region have been clearly acting in alliance for continuance of the political structure in Syria. It is also necessary to see that the alliance is led by Tehran. It is known that the Russian Federation stands by Damascus at global level. Because of the Russia factor, it is quite hard that an expected decision is taken in UN on Syria. Considering all this network of relations, it is believed that it would be good to explicitly discuss on each platform how far Turkey could go to overthrow Assad.
In order for Turkey to break the Syrian gridlock, Turkey needs to launch a new initiative both with actors within Syria and also with actors from outside Syria. While, on one hand, striving to take the support of actors such as Tehran, Riyadh, Doha, Cairo, Paris, Washington, Moscow and Beijing, as a right strategy; on the other hand, and maybe more importantly, she needs to receive the support of Aleppo, Latakia, Suweida, Qamishli, Afrin and Wadi al-Nasara. It is necessary to indicate that the key to the gridlock in Syria is within Syria itself, despite all regional and global initiatives. Therefore, all the Syrian should explicitly know at least Turkey's plans on post-Assad.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Veysel AYHAN, ORSAM Middle East Advisor, Abant Izzet Baysal University