Buffer zone in ME can help save lives
Keeping in view the current turmoil that the Middle East has plunged into it is imperative to take drastic but simultaneous actions to control the situation and restore peace to this region. Airstrikes and other military methods cannot ensure peace and security. We have much more to do to save the lives of thousands of innocent people caught in the cross-fire.
Turkey, being a key regional power, has much work to do in this regard. President Recep Teyyip Erdogan’s commitment for Turkey’s active role in the coalition against the self-ascribed Islamic State (IS) has made many heave a huge sigh of relief and also surprised many others. Turkish interest in the anti-IS efforts has the mainstream western media buzzing with analyses and impact of Ankara’s involvement in this renewed war on terror.
Seemingly, Ankara’s statement has been misconstrued. The western media has, somehow, missed the point. Supporting the coalition was one thing and taking active part in the fighting is something else.
In last week’s column, this writer highlighted Turkey’s approach toward regional issues. Unlike western powers, Ankara has always adopted a different approach and methods for the resolution of conflicts in the region. Being a strategic part of the region, Turkey sees the dangers from a different perspective and with a deeper understanding of the regional and cultural intricacies.
World should not expect any different approach when it comes to the IS. Indeed, the bill on Iraq and Syria says nothing about “the use of the Incirlik air base.” The absence of any mention of this important issue leaves no room for believing that Turkey would get itself embroiled in fighting. It would be, from a Turkish perspective, a sane approach.
There are other aspects to this fight against the IS, on which Turkey is currently concentrating. The most important of them all is the creation of a buffer or secure zone. The establishment of such a zone, which can have significant outcomes in terms of security, is a matter of urgency for the sake of peace in the region. Observers may recall this writer has been advocating the creation of a buffer zone since the beginning and subsequent aggravation of the Syrian crisis.
This idea has finally come to the fore, though very late. However, taking immediate steps in this regard will help reduce tensions and ensure safety of the civilians. The establishment of a secure zone, Turkey’s essential demand, may not meet with the approval of all the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, despite the urgent need for it. The failure of the Security Council members in reaching a consensus on this important issue obviously due to conflicting interests has only aggravated the situation in the region. Turkish president is justified in his criticism of these members. “The world is bigger than those five,” aptly said the president. With the drastic changes in the world and it political balances, the United Nations, which stands loyal to the rules enshrined after the World War II, needs a major overhaul.
Since the UN Security Council’s approval is uncertain, a second option under consideration is to set up a secure zone with various coalition countries. It is expected that with the backing of the coalition forces, an approximately 25-km strip or secure pockets can be established along the Iraqi and Syrian border. Although a lack of UN mandate would leave the region relatively open to external aggression, a number of coalition countries would inevitably represent a deterrent force.
This strip that Turkish officials keep referring to will not be a zone of occupation, but a peace line established to protect the defenseless people there and prevent terror organizations moving across the borders. The first condition for making the region secure is the clearing of mines and removal of armed elements. It is exceedingly important to declare the area a no-fly zone. Thus the region will be protected against aerial attacks, terror organizations will be prevented from being able to move forward in shelled areas and local people will not have to leave their places of residence and turn into refugees.
The 9,000 Turkish troops in the region will be there solely for security purposes. It is thought that the number can be made up to 20-25,000 with smaller contingents from other coalition countries. That is important for Russia and China, because these will not back the coalition if US troops are in control of the area. However, the area being under the protection of Turkish troops will represent a security guarantee for Russia.
Due to the turmoil in Syria and Iraq, Turkey has admitted some 2 million refugees. It is an honor for us, the Turkish people, to embrace our suffering brothers and a medal for Turkey that the generations to come will remember with pride. We also need to remember here that the aid to Turkey, facing a flow of refugees, the like of which has seldom been seen, stands at $150 million, while Turkey has so far spent $4.5 billion. The Turkish government almost never mentions this huge gap. Yet in the face of the rising numbers of refugees, various measures need to be taken at once. A secure zone will represent a solution to meeting all the needs of Syrian and Iraqi citizens who have now become refugees and will be a shield that protects them against IS, the PKK and other threats.
This demand made by Turkey needs to be translated into reality on a war-footing. No time should be wasted. The US must realize that the loss of even a single day represents a grave risk. From the Russian perspective, Turkey should act as a guarantor and follow a policy that neutralizes Russian concerns over the region and Syria. Turkey is as much an ally of Russia as it is a member of NATO, and it has never been a part of the policy aimed at isolating Russia. Turkey, therefore, has a special responsibility in terms of winning Russia over.
It should not be forgotten that secure zones have always been successful and produced good results wherever they have been adopted, such as Iraq, Bosnia and the Golan Heights. They have prevented conflicts from erupting and protected the local populace. Therefore, there is no time to lose. This measure should have been taken three years ago in Syria, before thousands of people died, before war arrived on the border and before five million people abandoned their country. Let’s at least not delay this step any further.
The writer has authored more than 300 books translated into 73 languages on politics, religion and science.
He tweets @harun_yahya.