Old tensions are resurfacing on the border between Syria and Turkey, across which roughly 12,000 Syrian refugees have fled to escape a deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Syrian troops have been massing near the border to keep more Syrian citizens from leaving, and Turkey, which is reportedly reinforcing its own troops in the area, is worried its neighbor could be preparing for cross-border strikes. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the development "very worrisome." Are Syria and Turkey headed for a violent clash?
Syria could start the fighting any minute: There's no question "the situation between Syria and Turkey is explosive," says Zvi Bar'el at Israel's Haaretz. One concern in Ankara is that the Syrians would try to hit refugee camps in Turkey that have already taken in 12,000 Syrian civilians. No wonder Turkey is preparing for the worst.
"Turkey concerned Syria border tension could escalate into violent clashes"
Turkey could provoke a fight, too: Turkey knows it "faces a growing danger that Syrian economic and social disruption could spill onto its soil," says Ibon Villelabeitia at Reuters. And it's not waiting around passively. It has accused Assad of "savagery" against the protesters, and is contemplating setting up a buffer zone inside Syria to avoid being flooded with refugees. But that could easily spiral into armed conflict, by stoking fears within Syria that Turkey has "neo-Ottoman" plans to take over its neighbors.
"Turkey loses patience over Syria, weighs options"
Don't forget the history of disputed land here: "There are of course many reasons for Turkish qualms about the refugee situation," says Hugh Eakin in The New York Review of Books. For one thing, it pretty much spells the end of Turkey's recent attempts to improve ties with Assad. More importantly, the Turkish area in question used to belong to Syria, and still appears as part of the country in Syrian maps. Syria's support for separatist Kurds in the region pushed the countries "to the brink of war" in the 1990s. It's easy to imagine that we may be on the brink again.
"Will Syria's revolt disrupt the Turkish borderlands?"