Syria Sends a Message to NATO?

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Two heavily armed regional powers — Turkey and Syria — are inching toward military conflict following the downing by Syria of an unarmed reconnaissance jet in international waters last week and the subsequent firing on rescue planes by Syria dispatched to search for the pilots.

While Turkey has shown restraint, its warnings to Syria are specific; any further military action against Turkish forces would be met with “retaliation.” This includes a pointed message by Turkish Prime Minister Raycep Erdogan who said that Syrian forces advancing toward the border would be “treated as a military target.” Syria has thousands of troops near its 566 mile border with Turkey who are there to try and stem the flow of rebel fighters into Syria. Erdogan’s warning changes the rules of engagement for Turkish forces, making conflict more likely.

For only the second time in NATO’s history, a member nation invoked Article 4 which allows a country to call a meeting of the alliance if it feels its security is threatened. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen condemned the Syrian attack on Turkey’s aircraft but stopped short of saying that NATO would take any military action. The Obama administration also decried the downing of Turkey’s plane while praising Ankara for its measured response.

Meanwhile, Russia is set to deliver more arms to Syria, including refurbished attack helicopters and a sophisticated air defense system. Indeed, there has been speculation from many analysts about why Turkey was flying an unarmed plane so close to Syrian air space. Testing Syria’s Russian supplied air defenses is thought to have been one of the reasons for the plane’s flight path.

The fear of igniting a regional war with Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran siding with Syria and squaring off against NATO has never been greater. But it is thought that President Assad doesn’t want a wider conflict, despite the fact that he acknowledged for the first time on Tuesday that Syria was in a “state of war.” Assad’s usual tack is to blame “terrorists” for the conflict. But in a televised speech following the swearing in of his new cabinet, Assad said, “When we are in a war, all policies and all sides and all sectors need to be directed at winning this war.” As he was speaking those words, Free Syrian Army forces were hitting the elite Republican guard headquarters in Damascus. The attack on President Assad’s personal bodyguard shows that the FSA is becoming more capable – and more daring, although it is believed they are still too disorganized to take and hold territory.

In shooting down the aircraft, was Syria sending a message to NATO that the country won’t be the pushover Libya was? That’s the view of Fawaz A. Gerges, Professor of International Relations and Director of the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics. Gerges points out that radio intercepts by Turkey clearly show the Syrians knew the plane was in international waters and was Turkish in origin — claims denied by Syria who insists it was unaware to which country the air craft belonged. “We had to react immediately, even if the plane was Syrian we would have shot it down,” said foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdisi at a press conference in Damascus.

Prime Minister Erdogan isn’t buying that explanation. And while the shooting down of an unarmed jet precipitated the crisis, Syria’s firing on planes sent to rescue the pilots enraged the Turkish government. Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc on Monday accused Syrian forces of opening fire on a Turkish search-and-rescue plane during the search on Friday for the F-4 Phantom jet. He said the attack was called off only when Turkish officials called Syria to tell them of the plane’s mission.

In a speech before Parliament, Erdogan laid down a red line that Syria cannot cross: “Any military element that approaches the Turkish border from Syria and poses a security risk and danger will be regarded as a threat and treated as a military target,” Erdogan said. The Turkish prime minister said that there had already been several border incursions by Syrian forces, including at least 5 incidents involving Syrian helicopters violating Turkish air space.

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  • Mark Rogers

    So even the Turkish Prime Minister is capable of waking up to the realities of the Middle East! And it certainly looks as though everything is now lined up for a major conflict – but one way or another this was to be expected.

  • Flowerknife_us

    There is no good guy to root for in this conflict. Cut Turkey from NATO before they involve the rest of us in a conflict where there may be no winner for years to come. By all accounts published here, the term Rebel represents something worse than the overthrown.

    Faced with a choise of being deposed and killed or die fighting, what would you choose?

    Surely Allah knows the high price in Muslim lives being King of the heep involves.

    Turkey who has become rather unfriendly to Israel fighting Syria who never has been friendly has bits advantages.

    • Looking4Sanity

      Agreed. When Turkey switched sides to align themselves with the Islamist terrorists they should have been ejected from NATO immediately. We are not helping ourselves by allowing them to play both sides of the fence.

    • Snorbak

      There is no doubt in my mind that this was a deliberate action on behalf of Syria, seeing an opportunity to "take a swipe" at Erdogan with little risk of retaliation.
      The profile that the F4 was flying (speed, direction, alt) along with several other specific indicators, would be more than sufficient for any proficient battery commander to determine if the contact was aggressive or otherwise, especially considering the weapon system used in the shoot down. (Should they have been able to track the F4 optically, then there is no doubt, saying it was mistaken for an Israeli aircraft is rubbish as Israel does not operate the F4)
      The Turkish F4's were part way through a modernisation/ upgrade by Israel that was cancelled after the "flotilla" incident, so I doubt the crew would have even known that they were fired upon & if they did would have been able to do little about it.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    The news coming out of the Middle East grows worse daily and the wicked do wickedly. Going back
    in time the prediction for Damascus written 2,800 years ago by the Prophet Isaiah says in Ch. 17, v1
    "Behold Damascus will cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap." A very dire prediction
    that should not escape the attention of Assad but he is to close to the camel to see the dung and will
    step in it for sure……………………………………..William

    • Snorbak

      I have little concern for any escalation between Syria & Turkey as I am of the opinion that it would be a relativly limited engagement, what concerns me is that during the process of his downfall Assad, who is truly stupid enough, will attempt to draw Israel into the conflict to remove the pressure upon himself. Should he mis-calculate & use chem/ Bio weapons against Israeli population centers ie; Tel Aviv, than the stage could well be set for Isaiah 17:1 to be fulfilled & sooner than we think!

      However, in saying that I believe that the Psalm 83 war should occur 1st as I cant see how Israels enemies such as Hamas et al, would dare attack a state that had recently destroyed another nations capital.

      Like the scout motto; Be Prepared!

      • WilliamJamesWard

        Escalation if any would be from Syria's backers, Russia and Iran with the help of surrogates.
        Erdogan is playing a dangerous game but measuredly so, Assad is reacting but it all seems
        staged. There are many distractions at present and they are to divert attention to what is
        going on and that is most difficult to discern. The storm over the Middle East is gaining in
        confusing energies but the end is assured, Israel wins the others loose………..William

  • John

    Turkey can beat Syria. Assad knows this. that is why several years ago Syria turned over a Kurdish leader that had sought sanctuary in Syria. Turkey lined up tanks on the joint border & Syria turned over the leader to Turkey under their non existent extradition treaty.

    But does Turkey want to fight a 2 front war against Syria & Iran? Only if they want to lose badly.

    Obama rebuffs Erdogan’s appeal to lead Turkey in Syria attack
    debka . c o m /article/22135/Obama-rebuffs-Erdogan's-appeal-to-lead-Turkey-in-Syria-attack

    Obama is making the right decisions for the wrong reasons, but I will take it. Obama is basically only concerned with making U.S. a socialist state. Outside conflicts are distractions for him. Any attempt at diplomacy shows him to be a paper tiger. All talk & no action. His hatred for Americana makes him back most anti-Americans abroad. We can't afford him. He screwed up Libya & Egypt. Libyan weapons are showing up with terrorists groups. President Morsi is Islamicising Egypt like Erdogan did in Turkey.

  • John

    The Prez is making the right decisions for the wrong reasons, but I will take it. The Prez is basically only concerned with making U.S. a socialist state. Outside conflicts are distractions for him. Any attempt at diplomacy shows him to be a paper tiger. All talk & no action. His hatred for Americana makes him back most anti-Americans abroad. We can't afford him. He messed up Libya & Egypt. Libyan weapons are showing up with terrorists groups. President Morsi is Islamicising Egypt like Erdogan did in Turkey.

    • http://www.themadjewess.wordpress.com MAD JEWESS

      With all due respect, I disagree, John. Obama is a Muslim, a radical Marxist as well.. He started this insanity in Egypt, he is happy they now have the M bro'hood in charge. He then put boots on the ground in Libya and destroyed their country, ousted Gaddafi for what? Then he demanded Assad step down. Who the hell is HE to demand other nations leaders step down? Libya and Egypt are full of CHAOS b/c of Obama. Which is why Russia and China are coming to the aid of Syria–Syria has a pretty large population of Christians and Catholics that NOBODY is talking about–these sweetie pie Muslims in the streets are burning their churches down and they have murdered a priest.

      Obama the EVIL has done this. We are HATED, severely, now.
      Whoever voted for this INSANE lunatic should have their f'n head examined.
      What in the sam hell was America thinking, anyway, voting in a schmuck called Barack HUSSEIN Obama??!!

  • John

    The President is making the right decisions for the wrong reasons, but I will take it. The President is basically only concerned with making U.S. a socialist state. Outside conflicts are distractions for him. Any attempt at diplomacy shows him to be a paper tiger. All talk & no action. His h a t r e d for Americana makes him back most a n t i -Americans abroad. We can't afford him. He messed up Libya & Egypt. Libyan weapons are showing up with terror groups. President Morsi is Islam icising Egypt like Erdogan did in Turkey.

  • John

    The Commander in Chief is making the right decisions for the wrong reasons, but I will take it. The Commander in Chief it is basically only concerned with making U.S. a socialist state. Outside conflicts are distractions for him. Any attempt at diplomacy shows him to be a paper tiger. All talk & no action. His h a t r e d for Americana makes him back most a n t i -Americans abroad. We can't afford him. He messed up Libya & Egypt. Libyan weapons are showing up with terror groups. President Morsi is Islam icising Egypt like Erdogan did in Turkey.

  • John

    The Commander in Chief is making the right decisions for the wrong reasons, but I will take it.

  • John

    The Commander in Chief it is basically only concerned with making U.S. a socialist state.

  • John

    . The Commander in Chief it is basically only concerned with making U.S. a s o c i a l i s t state.

  • JOHN

    The Commander in Chief it is basically only concerned with making U.S. a

    S O C I A L I S T

    state.

    YES I CAN GET AROUND CENCORING SOFTWARE. SOCIALIST IS A BANNED WORD. REALLY!

  • JOHN

    Outside conflicts are distractions for him. Any attempt at diplomacy shows him to be a paper tiger. All talk & no action. His h a t r e d for Americana makes him back most a n t i -Americans abroad. We can't afford him. He messed up Libya & Egypt. Libyan weapons are showing up with terror groups. President Morsi is Islam icising Egypt like Erdogan did in Turkey

  • john

    S O C I A L I S T is a BANNED WORD?

    REALLY?

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

      That's funny coming from a muslim friendly troll such as yourself.

      The hate keeps you from seeing how close sharia and statism is.

  • EthanP

    While a war is undesirable, I expect that the still largly secular, western trained and equiped Turkish military would quickly overwhelm the soviet style Syrian military.
    Oh, and by the way, there are no good guys in Syria. Only bad and badder.

    • SKIP

      There are NO good guys in the entire muslim world Ethan, muslims fighting among themselves is emotionally and psychologically most satisfying, but whomever wins is a moot point relative to non muslims as either side hates us and their only goal in the world is our destruction.

  • mlcblog

    I like the truth in this last sentence from the article.

    …things are likely to spiral beyond the control of leaders who have set in motion the machinery of war and now find themselves at the mercy of events.

  • Judas

    I don't want to defend anyone involved in this situation. With that said, Erdogan and Turkey need to be investigated. If this wasn't their intent, then it is woefull incompetance. The whole world sees what's going on in Syria, nerves there are understandibly on edge, and they fly a fighter jet off Syria's coast? Syria should not have shot the Jet down or fired on the rescue attempt, but Turkey isn't inoccent here either. And as shifty as Muslims tend to be, I wouldn't be surprised if this whole thing was orchestrated to kick start WWIII. I suspect this is the Archduke Franz Ferdinand moment of World War III

  • RTR

    Assad is a secular dictator and I really cannot understand the American public eager to replace a secular distator with a religious fanatic jihadist. You helped this in Iran, in Iraq, in Sudan lohg time afo (Jaafar Nimeiri), in Somalia (Siad Bare overthrown with US help). America is blind, stupid or what???? Assad was hostile to israel – do you think the jihadists will be friendly????

  • http://www.maghrebchristians.com Youssef

    In the Maghreb world Muslims from all sort of movement of Islam are coming to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Today in Algeria there are over 100,000 believers of Jesus. I have had the privilege to sit with people, leaders and those who suffer for their faith and find out their opinion. North Africa as it is growing with the form of Christianity; Islam is also growing rapidly as the government are seeing the movement of believers of Jesus growing.

    Read more: http://www.maghrebchristians.com/2012/06/27/north

    Youssef

    • SKIP

      Youssef! what needs to happen in Maghreb is for the Christians to get weapons, defend themselves by killing muslim whom they KNOW are coming to murder them or convert to islam! Personally, I suggest a ruthless campaign of murdering muslims before the same is done to them and it WILL BE DONE TO THEM.

  • Flowerknife_us

    Poor Turkey. Now they are being confused with the Jews. Poor Syria. Thinking the Jews would dodge the shot, bag a Turkey instead.

    No doubt Russia would like nothing better than having Turkey exhaust itself against its neighbors. Supporting and abetting Syria is just one of the ways to keep the pot boiling.

  • Attila The Hun

    Rick, Don't be so sure that 'Prime Minister Erdogan do not desire conflict'. Erdoğan's dream is to became the 21st century Ottoman Sultan/Caliph and Syria is the perfect first step in that direction if he can establish a Sunni safe zone inside Syria using NATO forces.. The problem with his dream is that if the conflict widens the 20 million Kurds inside Turkey will not stand still. Even in Turkey the rumor mills start questioning the entire f-4 downing. http://www.odatv.com/n.php?n=ucagin-dusurulmesind

  • Drakken

    Let Turkey and Syria go at each other, the more the muslims slaughter each other the better it is for us infidels.

  • Veracity Jane

    I don’t see ME anywhere in NATO.

  • SKIP

    President Assad is the reason Syria has not been attacking Israel for a number of years as was Mubarak and Qhadafi in their respective countries. With a potential fall of Assad the enemies arrayed around Israel, all geared towards the murder of all Jewish citizens and many others and the total elimination of Israel, the actual assault on Israel will begin and the world will watch as Israel, without support from our muslim ass kissing NATO, U.S. government or the now muslim controlled UK and Israel will go nuke! Personally, muslims killing muslims just makes me tingle all over.

  • Indioviejo

    While Turkey and Syria do battle, the Kurds should push for an Independent Kurdistan. Just to add a little salsa to the mix.