And if the AKP wasn't already skittish about the military option in Syria, the main opposition party, the CHP, has taken a contrarian stance. Many in the
CHP still harbor 1970's style anti-Americanism, opposing U.S. policies and cooperation with the U.S., as well as any sort of military action on ideological
There is also the fact that the CHP has a large Alevi base. (The Alevis, who comprise about 15 percent of the Turkish population, are not related to the
similar-sounding Alawites.) But both groups take issue with the AKP's Syria policy.
The Alevis are staunchly secular and therefore categorically opposed to the AKP's conservative and occasionally Islamist flavor. They stand against the AKP
policies, and they will be another reason for the CHP to maintain its visceral opposition to the AKP's Syria policy.
The CHP, which has support from about a quarter of the Turkish population, now stands in the way of a more active Turkish policy against Assad. In a recent
example, four CHP deputies visited Assad in Damascus in early March. In a public relations stunt, the deputies undermined Ankara with claims that the
Turkish people "reject intervention in Syria and want nothing more than neighborly relations" with Assad. To which the Syrian dictator purportedly
responded: "I appreciate the stance of the Turkish people and political parties, who unlike the Turkish government favor stability in Syria." The CHP will
oppose the AKP's Syria policy, even if this means divorcing itself from reality.
Last but not least, there is the issue of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's political goals. Erdogan has won three successive elections,
recently breaking the record for longest-serving Turkish prime minister. Now, he has set his sights on becoming Turkey's next president in the forthcoming
Throughout his decade in power, his greatest political asset has been Turkey's phenomenal economic growth, averaging over 5 percent annually. Erdogan wins
because Turkey grows, and Turkey is growing because it is the only stable country among its European and Middle Eastern neighbors. If this virtuous cycle
continues, Erdogan will win the next elections. If, however, Turkey enters a war in Syria, it could slide into the ranks of the "problem states" in its
neighborhood. This would break Erdogan's recipe for political and economic success by putting in jeopardy the more than $40 billion that comes into the
Istanbul stock market annually, driving the country's growth.
The odds are against unilateral Turkish action against Assad. Yet, at the same time, Ankara cannot tolerate Assad in power, or live with a sectarian civil
war next door. Turkey's leaders are acutely aware that war will spill over into Turkey, stoking violence between the country's Alawites and Sunnis and
tarnishing Turkey's coveted reputation as a "stable country in an unstable region." This would also end Erdogan's presidential dream.