Syria’s cross-border attacks on Turkey in the past week look increasingly like they could be an intentional escalation meant to send a clear message to Ankara and beyond, that the crisis is too explosive to risk foreign military intervention.
With Turkey eager to defuse the crisis, the spillover of fighting is giving new life to a longshot political solution, with the Turks floating the idea of making President Bashar Assad’s longtime vice president, Farouk al-Sharaa, interim leader if the president steps aside.
A military option — which would involve foreign powers that already have expressed a deep reluctance to getting involved in the crisis — still is not on the table, analysts say, despite six consecutive days of Turkish retaliation against bombardment from inside Syria.
“Syria is aware that Turkey cannot go a step further,” said Ali Tekin, assistant professor of International Relations at Ankara’s Bilkent University. “The Turkish people don’t want a war and there are no vital national interests at stake to warrant a war. Syria sees this.”
The Syrian conflict has taken a prominent role in the U.S. presidential election at a time when the U.S. and its allies have shown little appetite for getting involved.
On Monday, Republican candidate Mitt Romney said the U.S. should work with other countries to arm the Syrian rebels, allowing the rebels to drive Assad from power themselves. Romney did not call for the U.S. to directly arm Syrian rebels.
An activist group said Monday the number of people killed in the Syrian conflict crossed the threshold of 32,000 over the weekend, and the pace is accelerating.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it counted 32,079 dead as of Sunday — among them 22,980 civilians and civilians-turned fighters, 7,884 members of the Syrian military and 1,215 army defectors fighting alongside the rebels.
In the past week alone, more than 1,200 people were killed, according to the head of the Observatory, Rami Abdul-Rahman, who said he only counts named victims or those whose death is verified by other means, such as amateur video.
Also Monday, a suicide attacker detonated a car bomb near a compound of the Syrian intelligence service on the outskirts of Damascus, a Syrian official said. There was no immediate word on casualties, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.