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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Did Syria send a message to NATO?

Rick Moran believes that Syria's shooting down of a Turkish F-4 on a reconnaissance mission earlier this week was directed at NATO and not just at Turkey.
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.

And Erdogan warned Syria not to mistake its forbearance for a reluctance to act: “No one should be deceived by our cool-headed stance,” he added. “Our acting with common sense should not be perceived as a weakness.”

Professor Gerges believes there is more to Erdogan’s warning about the border than a threat of retaliation. He said that Turkey was intent on “establishing a de facto safe zone that hinders Syria’s ability to move troops close to the border.” He added, “This will allow the Syrian rebels to gather strength in that the border area and advance toward the Syrian heartlands.” It will also facilitate the transfer of arms to the FSA — a task that the US has now become engaged in, according to a New York Times report last week.
Read the whole thing.

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