Commentary Magazine


Is Turkey Playing a Double Game on Syria?

Many diplomats—up to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—have cited Turkey’s cooperation on Syria as evidence of the strong Turkish-American partnership. What the Turkish government often says—and what Turkish officials do, however, are often very different things.

Word has come from Turkey that a Turkish intelligence agent was instrumental in returning to Syria—by force—Hussein Harmush, a Syrian colonel who fled to Turkey after refusing to fire on Syrian civilians and became the first high-level Syrian officer to declare publicly his opposition to the Assad regime. The Turkish agent removed Harmush from the refugee camp and handed him over to Syrian officials. Harmush was subsequently executed by the Syrian regime.

The Turkish intelligence official is being probed by the Turkish government but, as in Iran, Turkey has often dismissed actions as rogue in order to maintain plausible deniability for its actions. The fact remains that Prime Minister Erdoğan once embraced Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad as a close friend, and instructed his subordinates to treat the Syrian regime likewise.

Alas, while the Obama administration continues to embrace Turkey for its promises, it continues to turn a blind eye toward Turkey’s double game or the fact that its positions are based more on opportunism than on any shared vision.