Saturday, June 23, 2012

Escalation Unlikely after Syria downs Turkish F-4

June 23, 2012

I have been meaning for sometime to write about the deteriorating situation in Syria. With over 15,000 people dead, the far-majority protesters, but many government forces also, Syria is looking more and more like it is in a state of civil war. As the bombardment of anti-government cities, such as Homs, is continuing with brutal force and massacres of the civilian population occurring with no end in sight, the western countries remains with their hands tied due to the fact that Russia is standing behind the Syrian regime blocking any intervention on behalf of NATO, or Europe. Further, all attempts by the UN to stop the violence has proven inefficient. The situation is grave.  

Turkish Newspapers covering the downing of the Turkish fighter plane
As for Turkey, it has used all of its political ammunition to no avail, with the closing of all mutual political representation over a month ago. Even, a  military conflict between the two states seemed closer than ever a few weeks back when Syrians were firing over the border at the refugee camps which are housing over 30,000 Syrians who have fled out-of-fear of the Assad regime. However, yesterday, with the downing of a Turkish fighter plane off the coast of Syria not far from Turkish airspace, tensions between Turkey and Syria have entered a dangerous state.  Syria has tried to ease the tensions claiming they did not realize that it was a Turkish plane, something which does not makes sense.Until now, there is no word of the two pilots who have gone missing.  

The Turkish newspapers today were filled with headlines such as Syria is "Playing with Fire," and President Abdullah Gul stating that such an incident cannot "go ignored," hinting at possible action. The Turkish government has been meeting with army officials but has remained silent until now.  Whatever the case, it seems that Ankara will not opt for military intervention and is not interested in an escalation.  Syria is far too messy to get involved with and any Turkish intervention will just lead to a more chaotic state.  Likewise, it is unclear why Syria would shoot down the Turkish jet and who in the chain of command ordered this. It would seem unlikely that anyone high up ordered this but rather it was a an officer who acted out of the moment, showing extremely poor judgement. This point actually might be the core problem: the Syrian forces are losing hold, leading to splits within the military and a break in the chain of command. Planes are "just not shot down," and President Assad is not that stupid to pull Turkey into the conflict. 

While in my opinion, no immediate Turkish reaction is on the horizon (apart from a slap on the hand), this incident brings Turkey closer to supporting the Syrian opposition, and working towards a NATO/European coalition to interfere in Syria during the next few months; something which seems even more possible with the recent warming of ties between France and Turkey, following the election of the new French president Francois Hollande. In any case, it is clear that with the breaking up of Syria into warring camps, Turkey will need to brace itself for future unrest on its long southern border with Syria, and work hard not to get dragged into an unnecessary war.  

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