Neighbor Turkey's Reluctant Role in Syrian Civil War

Uploaded by PBSNewsHour on 23.11.2012

bjbjVwVw RAY SUAREZ: And we turn to Syria. No country has been more affected by the uprising
than its neighbor to the north, Turkey. Thousands of refugees have flooded across the border,
and stray mortar shells routinely land near Turkish towns. Margaret Warner is on a reporting
trip to the region. I spoke with her from Istanbul a short time ago about Turkey's role
in the conflict and its relationship with the U.S. Margaret, welcome. The death toll
has passed a significant milestone, 40,000 people, and the war is said to be widening.
What's changing inside Syria and how is that affecting Turkey? MARGARET WARNER: Well, what's
clear, Ray, is, what isn't changing is the loss of life. We saw that in northwestern
Syria, where Assad's ground forces had withdrawn, but the relentless bombing from the air continued.
So people were still dying there. Then, as we have moved eastward in Turkey on the Turkish
side of the border, it's apparent that the violence in Syria, the fighting is also moving
eastward, too. And the new wrinkle here is that, in some areas from which the government
forces have withdrawn, there's now a new battlefront between the Kurds, who have taken control
of some of these towns, and the Free Syrian Army, the rebels, who are otherwise winning
territory in other parts of Syria. So, actually, as you said, the conflict is widening with
more players, and, of course, that will only bring more loss of life. RAY SUAREZ: The Kurds,
of course, a transnational people living in Turkey, in Iraq, and in Syria. But I thought
the old idea was the enemy of my enemy is my friend. How come the Free Syrian forces
are fighting against the Kurds? MARGARET WARNER: Well, that old adage doesn't apply to Syria's
Kurds. Syria's Kurds have been so marginalized, perhaps the most in any of -- there are actually
four countries, because Iran also has Kurds. They weren't even citizens of Syria. And they
don't trust, the Free Syrian Army, the Sunni Arab rebels. They don't have a bond with them
and they don't trust them any more than they did Assad. They don't trust that in a post-Assad
Syria, if it was completely run by the rebels, the rebels we know of, that they would have
any more rights than they did under Assad. And so, instead, they have been training over
in camps in Iraqi Kurdistan, and hoping to take advantage of this chaos to carve out
areas that could ultimately become an independent Syrian Kurdish state. RAY SUAREZ: In the meantime,
as Syria's war widens, the pressure on Turkey has grown, as we have seen from your previous
reporting here on the "NewsHour." But, recently, the Ankara government has made an interesting
request to NATO. Tell us more about it. MARGARET WARNER: You're absolutely right, Ray. Turkey
has requested actually a week or so ago for NATO to send Patriot missile batteries to
defend Turkey's border and airspace against any incoming of any sort that would come in
from Syria and elsewhere. It's no secret that Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey and Syrian
President Assad have been on the outs ever since Erdogan, I don't know, 16 months ago
called on Assad step down. And in these sort of -- as you know, Turkish forces have been
moved to the border. There has been some back-and-forth -- It has become very apparent and widely
discussed in the media here that despite having the second largest army in NATO after the
U.S., Turkey's air defenses are not that great. So, what Turkey is saying to NATO is, we need
to defend our airspace. There is, however, speculation that it might also be Turkey's
backdoor way of putting in a cornerstone from which NATO ultimately might create a no-fly
zone inside Syria. And that is something Turkey has been calling for, for months now, because
they want to create a zone in which the internally displaced in Syria can go and be safe without
coming into Turkey. Turkey is already paying a huge price and a huge burden for 120,000
just refugees in camps that they have there, and they're really getting to the breaking
point on that. RAY SUAREZ: Margaret Warner in Istanbul, thanks for joining us. JEFFREY
BROWN: Margaret's next report delves further into the fighting by the Kurds in Syria and
its political impact on Turkey. Plus, you can see her earlier stories and blog posts.
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