Could Syria get worse?
Tens of thousands of Sunni Syrian refugees, presumably friendly to Turkey and indeed including many who are either rebels or the families of rebels supported and armed by Turkey, are now massing on the Turkish border. Davutoglu has already labeled the Russian military attack on Aleppo that provoked this new wave of refugees “ethnic cleansing,” suggesting that Ankara takes it seriously. Indeed it should, for it is the very picture of the total collapse of Ankara’s Syrian policy. Yet Ankara is refusing to allow its proxies to cross to safety, so they sit, helpless targets…
How long Ankara will allow this sore to fester without feeling compelled to respond, out of pure embarrassment, if nothing else, is anyone’s guess, but the longer a huge camp of anti-Assad civilians sits on the Turkish border, the greater the potential for a military clash. Can the Russians just ignore this new city of anti-Assad people who could be armed at any moment by the Turks? Will Assad, who looks like both a fool and a butcher with his own people sitting in a refugee camp inside his former territory, attack them on his own? Will the Islamic State decide that attacking them, perhaps in a false flag operation, serves its interests? The world is holding its breath and certainly the 30,000 and rising refugees with the bright red target painted on their foreheads are holding their breath.
Will Damascus or Moscow be tempted to fly a bomber close to the camp? Would Erdogan, who has already shot down one Russian plane, do it again, proclaiming to the world his “humanitarian desire to protect the refugees?”
If Ankara will not let them enter Turkey, will it announce that it is taking charge of their security…via Turkish artillery or the “loan” of a tank brigade or ground-to-air missiles? If Putin has measured goals, he might smile and thank the Turks for taking care of its friends; Assad might find such a slap in the face less amusing.
And what about Riyadh, which keeps talking about sending its forces to Syria? After all, these refugees are Sunni, and Riyadh sees itself as leading the Sunnis, and a lot of Riyadh’s money has surely also gone into funding the rebellion of exactly these Sunnis. Letting them sit out the rest of the war, which Riyadh’s side is now decidedly losing, in a humiliating, very public refugee camp inside Syria does not exactly make Riyadh look like the leader of the Sunni world.
One cannot predict the future, but it would be a fairly safe bet that sooner or later, a spark will be struck at this brand new refugee camp, engulfing the region in yet another wave of violence.
So why isn’t anyone doing anything?