Photo: flickr/Air Combat Command
When Syria shot down a Turkish jet last week, sending a valuable piece of equipment to the grave and two pilots crashing into the ocean, nobody was sure what to think.The easy conclusion was that this was a crisis caused by Syria.
Given the level of violence already taking place within the country and the fact that it may feel like the whole world is against it, Syria has a damning profile.
It turns out the Turkish jet, an F-4 Phantom, had actually strayed into Syrian airspace. It was consequently brought down.
Syria wasn’t starting a crisis, it was reacting.
But Turkey wants the international community to view Syria as an aggressor and seems to be brushing over the fact that, well, the Turkish F-4 Phantom may have started the whole incident.
The Associated Press reports Turkey is viewing Syria’s actions as “an attack on the whole [NATO] alliance” and will push allies to share that perception. That seems a bit much.
There is very little chance NATO will get involved. AP reporter Slobodan Lekic makes a good point:
For one thing, military action is unlikely to get the support of either the U.N. Security Council or the Arab League, and outside intervention without the blessing of both of those bodies is all but unthinkable. And there is little appetite among the 28 NATO countries — of which the U.S. is the largest — for another war in the Middle East.
Turkey has requested a meeting, scheduled tomorrow, to discuss the situation. Article 4 of the NATO treaty permits an allied country to request consultation “if it feels its territorial integrity or security has been threatened,” reports the AP.
Rod Nordland at the New York Times reports Turkish authorities analysed the radar data from their downed plane and confirmed that the aircraft was peacefully in international airspace.
But it was flying pretty close to Syria’s territorial space — at most it only had 1 mile to spare.
And it turns out, it did slip into Syrian airspace for five minutes, according to an admission by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc.
Yet it seems Turkey is downplaying that fact — calling the entry into Syrian territory a mistake — and is making fresh accusations against Syria instead.
From the New York Times:
In a new twist, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc of Turkey also accused the Syrians of shooting at a second Turkish plane — a search-and-rescue aircraft deployed to look for the downed warplane when it was hit last Friday off the Mediterranean coast, Turkey’s Anatolian News Agency reported.
Given Syria’s present state of hostility, as the government tries to quell a civil war while the international community condemns it, it’s not surprising that the Syrian military got twitchy when a foreign jet flew so close. What was Turkey doing so close to Syrian airspace anyway?
The government maintains it was just testing radar capabilities.
The situation now, with Turkey’s accusations and a request for a NATO meeting, just seems like a way to distract from the rather embarrassing reality that Turkey had a plane shot down after it wrongfully flew into Syria.
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