Two days after deadly twin bombings rocked Reyhanli, Turkey, killing 46, much of the Arab media leads off Monday with coverage of the threatening barbs going back and forth between the Turkish government and the Syrian regime, which could involve Turkey more deeply in the Syrian civil war.
Although Turkish authorities on Sunday arrested nine Turkish citizens for their involvement in the blasts, the office of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan says they were trained by, and acted on behalf of, Syrian intelligence, the Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports.
Speculation is growing that the Turkish suspects are members of the Popular Liberation Front of the Iskenderun Brigade, a militia composed of ethnic Arab Alawites whose stated goal is for the southern Hatay region, where the bombing took place, to break off from Turkey and be annexed by Syria.
“We know Syria wants to drag us into their disastrous scenario,” Erdogan said. “Turkey must remain alert and exercise self-restraint in the face of any provocation designed to drag us into the Syrian quagmire.”
‘Turkey must remain alert and exercise self-restraint in the face of any provocation designed to drag us into the Syrian quagmire’
Still, despite this call for restraint, the Doha-based media network Al-Jazeera notes that the Turkish government has announced its full support for international action to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad from power.
“The time has come for the international community to move against Assad in light of the increasing security risks faced by Turkey and Syria’s other neighbors,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. He went on to mention that it does not seem to be a coincidence that the bombings happened while accelerated discussions on resolving the Syrian civil war were ongoing.
The London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi reports that the Syrian government continues to deny any involvement in the bombings and asserts that the blame lies solely with the Turkish government.
“Syria has not acted, and will never act, in this manner because our values do not allow it,” said Syrian Minister of Information Omran Zoubi. “No one has the right to make such despicable accusations so haphazardly.”
‘Turkey has turned its border areas into centers of international terrorism, which facilitate the arrival of weapons, improvised explosive devices, cars, money, and murderers into Syria’
Zoubi went on to call Erdogan “a murderer and a serial killer” before claiming that “Turkey has turned its border areas into centers of international terrorism, which facilitate the arrival of weapons, improvised explosive devices, cars, money, and murderers into Syria. The Turkish government bears direct responsibility both politically and morally to the Turkish and Syrian peoples.”
If more Syrian-attributed attacks on Turkey persist, and Turkey chooses to intervene militarily in Syria, it would only stand to benefit Assad, according to outgoing Al-Quds Al-Arabi editor-in-chief Abdul Bari Atwan.
“Turkey’s border with Syria stretches for about 900 kilometers and is inhabited on both sides by either Kurds or Alawites,” writes Atwan. “Many of these areas are already beyond Turkey’s control and in the event of a fight with Syria, the Turkish residents may choose to ally with Syria.”
Atwan goes on to explain that Turkey is in the midst of very fragile peace negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). In addition, Assad is emboldened over what he sees as the West’s lack of stomach to stop him from regaining control over his country. Any Turkish reaction against him could prompt Syria, Turkey’s Kurds and Alawites, Russia, and Iran to lash out in ways in which Turkey is unprepared.
Israel’s secret friend in the Gulf
Following a report in the Israeli daily Haaretz over a secret official Israeli diplomatic mission in an unspecified Arab country in the Persian Gulf, the Arab press devotes a substantial amount of coverage to speculation over which country it may be.
The Haaretz report was confirmed up by the Israeli Finance Ministry, which includes funds for the mission in its recent budget proposal. Al-Quds Al-Arabi states that Israel has had secretly strong relations with many Gulf countries, including the UAE, Qatar, Oman, and Bahrain, going back to the mid-1990s when Israel was in the midst of serious peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
In the “Jerusalem Opinion,” a daily editorial in Al-Quds Al-Arabi, it is argued that either Qatar or Bahrain is the newest Arab host of an Israeli diplomatic mission.
“Bahrain has hosted Israeli delegations many times and has called for the need for the normalization of Arab media with Israel to reach the Israeli public and explain the Arab peace initiative to them,” the editorial reads. “The government of Qatar has expressed its willingness to reopen an Israeli mission as long as Israel allows the import of construction materials into the Gaza Strip and stops destroying what has already been rebuilt with Qatari aid.”
Despite this explanation, the editorial in the newspaper, whose editor is a relentless critic of Israel, unsurprisingly stands strongly against any normalization with the Jewish state. ”The establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel is especially inappropriate at a time when settlements are rapidly expanding, the Al-Aqsa Mosque is under attack, and the Arab peace initiative is treated like a decomposing body. Establishing relations now will only encourage the right-wing Israeli government to continue humiliating Arabs and desecrating holy places.”