Writing at The New Republic, Washington Institute for Near East Policy scholar Soner Cagaptay almost seems to be talking about something other than an intervention in Syria when he says it “needs to be velveteen in nature, soft to the touch and woven patiently over time.”
But an intervention in Syria is exactly what he’s describing — one that should be led by an all-Muslim military force. According to Cagaptay, the United States should devise a plan that has no ground troops and will be “supported by the Russians, executed by the Turks and Arabs, and remotely backed by the U.S. and its European allies.”
Still, a question looms: With little American appetite for overseas warfare whose air force would protect the safe havens? In fact, Washington’s reluctance to lead an operation may prove a blessing, leaving space for Turkey to take the reins. Over the past decade, Turkey has built a new policy in the Middle East, casting itself as a regional power whose identity transcends Ankara’s traditional Western alliances. As a result Ankara views taking part in any U.S.-led intervention in a Muslim country to be against Turkey’s new role in the Middle East.
But Turkey would support an air-based intervention to protect U.N. designated safe havens — as long as the mission is led by a “regional force,” composed of both Turkish and Arab militaries. Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who are funding the opposition, should be happy to work with their new ally in Ankara to protect the safe havens; Washington and European powers could then remotely back the operation, facilitating its success. This might be just what the war-weary United States needs: a military victory in the Middle East without the American military.