Thoughts on the Syrian Downing of a Turkish Warplane
by Daniel Pipes
Translations of this item:
There appears to be agreement on the basic facts: a Turkish F-4 violated Syrian airspace and the Syrian military shot it down over its territorial waters. Further, there is no dispute that the AKP-led Turkish government has for months offered sanctuary and armed the Syrian opposition forces in what amounts to a civil war in Syria between a hideous, brutal tyranny and an increasingly Islamist opposition. The Turkish leadership, even while accepting that its plane violated Syrian airspace, is growling about retaliation. The Syrian government has done its best to tamp down Turkish anger.
Because both sides in the Syrian conflict represent miserable alternatives, I argue that Western governments should stay out. I repeat that, with all the greater urgency, during this crisis. The West has no interest in supporting an aggressive Turkish government; quite the contrary, it needs to send Erdoğan & Co. a clear signal rejecting their bellicose and quasi-rogue foreign policy. As for Article 5, it's clearly inoperative here, what with the recent history of Turkish aggression against Syria, culminating in the warplane's intrusion. Again, stay out. (June 23, 2012)
June 24, 2012 update: I reply to the cogent points presented by Sanane, in quotes, who writes from Turkey, "Leaving Turkey alone on a Syrian adventure would have negative affects for Israel":
"If Turkey loses, Syria and its proxy Iran become the dominant power in the Middle East. It will enhance their reputation enormously and this would be awful for Israel as well as Turkey."
"And if Turkey wins, without Western aid, it would clearly demonstrate that Turkey no longer needs Western support and can go it alone. This would not only free Turkey's options in the region but it would diminish US interests further and isolate Israel even more, because Turkey free from Western pressure and aid can act much more freely and aggressively towards Israel."
"The best outcome for Israel would be a Turkish intervention with the aid of NATO. This would get rid of the brutal Syrian regime and thus free an agent of Iran who has been a Thorn for Israel since god knows when and would leave Turkey grateful for the US in particular and leave Turkey more open to US pressure to normalize and increase its relations with Israel."
"As long as states like Syria and Iran remain, Turkey and Israel need each other and both of the aforementioned countries having bad diplomatic relations is only good for states like Iran."
June 25, 2012 update: For context, note that, apparently, Turkish F-4s routinely penetrate Greek airspace. The website OnAlert.gr has several videos of what it says are examples of this.
June 26, 2012 update: Murat Yetkin published this map of the downed F'4's movements in today's Hürriyet.
June 27, 2012 update: My blog, "Mavi Marmara 2010 = Syrian Anti-Aircraft Fire 2012," continues this analysis.
June 29, 2012 update: According to the Wall Street Journal, American intelligence services are confirming the Syrian account of the incident, which is that a Turkish warplane was within Syrian airspace when shot down.
July 1, 2012 update: In his trademark blustery style, Turkey's Prime Minister Erdoğan has accused the Wall Street Journal of cowardice, declared it has a history of publishing lies, and said that it has an anti-Obama agenda. Comment: Good thing that the prime minister who has jailed more journalists than any other leader in the world cannot bring American media under his control.
Sep. 29, 2012 update: Startling news from Al-Jazeera: It claims to have papers indicating that the Syrian government debriefed and then executed the two Turkish pilots. We shall see.
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