Ralph Boulton
November 24, 2011

Turkey appears to be preparing for some form of civil war in neighboring Syria, wary of any unilateral intervention but fearful fighting there could quickly escalate to a broader sectarian conflagration in the Arab world.

“I observe a simmering threat in the region based on a Sunni-Shiite divide,” Turkish President Abdullah Gul said on Wednesday. “It … has the potential to move the Muslim world from the 21st century into the darkness of the Middle Ages.”

These were words Gul would not have uttered in public even a couple of weeks ago. But Ankara has in recent days openly abandoned any notion of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad staying in power and is focused on dealing with the chaos that could follow his removal.

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