Forget the buffer zone in Syria – for the time being

This one is a valuable analysis by Frederic Hof, with Atlantic Council:

Ankara’s view of the importance of the survival of the Assad regime to the well-being of ISIL in Syria is correct. Its prescribed buffer zone is, in principle, the right medicine. But is Ankara bringing anything to the table beyond a sense of outrage, a proclivity to point fingers, and a willingness to hold the coat of the United States as US airmen and naval aviators do all of the heavy lifting? If President Obama proves willing to transcend rhetoric and do something that will save Syrian lives, give decent governance a chance, and add a sense of reality to his “train and equip” initiative, will he find in Turkey a partner or an onlooker?

To the extent that Ankara thinks a buffer zone can be made safe for Syrians by means of a no-fly zone alone, it is either misinformed or whistling past the graveyard. Yes, a way would have to be found to ground Assad’s air force, fixed wing and helicopters alike. There are many ways this can be accomplished: Syria’s vast anti-aircraft network need not be eliminated via a massive bombing campaign in advanced. Pentagon planners have several options at their disposal. Yet the protection of populated areas and the survival of nationalist military units is not simply a matter of stopping air attacks.

Regime artillery has been active and brutally effective against residential areas for well over two years. Regime ground units are trying to seal Aleppo so that the usual starvation siege can be imposed. ISIL elements also press the nationalists in and around Aleppo. A strong ground force component will be required to secure and, for as long as it takes to build a more capable Syrian opposition force, defend the buffer zone.

Is Turkey willing to provide this force? If it is then the basis of an agreement with Washington for the establishment of a viable buffer zone exists. If it is not, then all this talk of a buffer zone is simply … talk.

Are Washington and Ankara truly trying to agree on something of operational substance? Or are leaders on both sides struggling to sustain their respective rhetorical campaigns? Syrians suffering the effects of regime and ISIL assaults have perhaps given up on anything resembling rescue. Washington and Ankara have an opportunity to prove them wrong. It is far from certain that this opportunity will be thoroughly explored, much less seized.

Full article here.

About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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