Turkey is Washington's lead anti-Syrian belligerent. It's playing with fire. It may end up burned. For good reason, Assad blames Ankara for heightened tensions and border confrontations.
On October 11, he told the Turkish daily Aydinlik he has "no difficulties with either Turkish people or its army, only with its government."
Syria was never hostile to Turkey, he added. Belligerent confrontations make relations tense. Ankara plays Washington's lead attack dog. Doing so heightens them further.
On October 11, Hurriyet Daily News headlined "Gov't puts army into 'high state of readiness,' " saying:
According to an unnamed "high-ranking official:"
"We want to give a strong message to the Syrian regime that Turkey is determined to protect its borders and people and is ready to do whatever necessary - that is the meaning of high-level readiness."
Chief of General Staff General Necdet Ozel continued inspecting troops deployed on Syria's borders. "We are here, and we are standing tall," he said. "We have retaliated and if (mortar fire) continues, we'll respond more strongly."
Free Syrian Army elements are to blame. Using NATO weapons, they fired mortars on Turkish territory. Assad was wrongfully blamed.
Turkey may end up getting the fight it wants. Washington, of course, calls the shots. Obama officials control how and when. Ankara's a willing co-conspirator.
Provocative incidents heighten tensions further. On October 11, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) headlined "Syrian Passenger Plane, Forced to Land by Turkish Authorities in Ankara Airport, Arrives in Damascus," saying:
A Syrian Air Moscow inbound flight was forced to land in Ankara. Airline director, Ghaida Abdullatif, told SANA that Turkish authorities assaulted crew members before permitting it to depart.
They refused to sign a document claiming an emergency landing. Russia Today said those refusing were beaten.
"Turkish F-16 warplanes forced the Syrian plane to land to be searched, doing so in violation of the international procedures in terms of not formerly notifying neither its pilot nor the Turkish civil airline, which almost caused an air accident due to warplanes coming close at an uncalculated distance," said Abdullatif.
No illegal cargo was onboard. Nothing was found. Passengers are safe but shaken. Abdullatif said Ankara committed "an inhumane act."
"Added to that, the long hours during which the passengers were locked without being provided (food or) any services or even informed of what was going on, which left them in a state of panic and a very bad psychological condition."
Damascus called Turkey's provocation an act of piracy. Russian President Vladimir Putin canceled a planned Ankara visit. Prime Minister Erdogan's office said it's rescheduled for December 3. Moscow officials said nothing further.
Russia's Foreign Ministry expressed concern. They demanded an explanation. Seventeen Russian nationals endured abuse on board for eight hours. Moscow accused Ankara of endangering Russian lives.
Turkey never informed Moscow about Russian passengers. Media reports provided information. A Foreign Ministry statement said what happened was "in violation of the bilateral consular agreements." It wants no further provocations.
A high-ranking Russian weapons export institution source said no weapons or military technology was onboard. At the same time he added:
"Russia has not halted its cooperation in the field of military technologies with Syria and will provide Syria with any type of military technologies in case of need according to the rules followed and not secretly, particularly via a passenger plane."
Turkey's media said Ankara prohibited Turkish passenger flights from entering Syrian airspace henceforth. Safety issues were cited.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said other civilian aircraft will be prevented from using its airspace if necessary, adding:
"We are determined to control weapons transfers to a regime that carries out such brutal massacres against civilians. It is unacceptable that such a transfer is made using our airspace."
"We received information this plane was carrying cargo of a nature that could not possibly be in compliance with the rules of civil aviation."
He lied. Nothing illegal was on board. Turkey's act willfully violated civil aviation rules. It was provocative and uncalled for. It advances things closer to full-scale intervention. Events make it appear likely.
On October 10, SANA quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saying Moscow will defend UN Charter provisions in attempting to cool regional tensions.
He stressed respecting national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations. Moscow is willing anytime to perform interlocutor/intermediary services.
Russia knows what's at stake. It's determined to try avoiding general war. Anything may erupt any time. Turkey seems hellbent for conflict. It's spoiling for a fight. It's provoking and facilitating full-scale intervention.
Perhaps Israel is positioning itself to get involved. It deployed significant forces to its Golan/Syrian border. At the same time, it's keeping a low profile. If Washington unleashes Turkey to attack, Netanyahu may provide support or force Syria to divert troops to protect its southwestern border.
Bet on claims ahead about intervening for humanitarian and/or responsibility to protect reasons. The same ruse was used for Libya. Imperial aggression masquerades behind liberating intentions.
On October 11, Mossad-connected DEBKAfile (DF) headlined "Turkey's army on high state of readiness, first step for Syria no-fly zone," saying:
Heightened tensions keep escalating dangerously. Turkish threats and provocations suggest the worst. "(D)eclaring Syrian airspace 'unsafe' (is a) step toward creating a no-fly zone over Syria."
Erdogan may try unilaterally closing Syrian airspace without Security Council authorization. Doing so constitutes an act of war. Provoking Russia ups the stakes. It comes at the same time Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced deploying a contingent of US forces to Jordan.
DF added that Turkish cross-border artillery shelling advances its plan for establishing a 10 km buffer zone in Syrian territory. Doing so amounts to another act of war. Damascus will only take so much before retaliating. Ankara's pushing in that direction. It's following Obama administration orders.
Current conditions resemble events preceding Washington's war on Libya. Expect anything to erupt anytime. More war is the last thing nonbelligerent Middle East nations want. Ready or not, it very much looks like it's coming.
Deploying US forces on the Jordanian/Syria border makes it more likely. Initially small numbers are involved. Expect more to follow. How many won't be announced, let alone justifications for why they're there.
Security claims don't wash. Longstanding Washington plans are belligerent. After a Brussels NATO meeting, Panetta announced:
"We have a group of our forces there working to help build a headquarters there and to insure that we make the relationship between the United States and Jordan a strong one so that we can deal with all the possible consequences of what’s happening in Syria."
Take official statements with a grain of salt. Jordan's getting itself more involved. Syria has hostile northern and southern neighbors. Full-scale intervention will affect both. Israel menaces the region. Its intentions will be known in its own way, on its own timetable.
Its military is formidable. Expect it used perhaps if Washington wants it operating cooperatively with Turkey, regional US forces, and other involved nations. At risk is embroiling the entire region.
Russia and China may not stand by idly. Both countries have major concerns. Lose Syria and risk Iran next. At risk is losing the entire region.
Both countries have vital regional interests. It's hard imagining they'll back off and do nothing. Failure to intervene increases their own vulnerability. Both countries represent America's final frontier. Failure to confront more US aggression now makes doing so later harder.
Hopefully they're drawn red lines they'll challenge if crossed. The best anti-war strategy is preventing it. Tough talk with teeth leaving no ambiguity may be how. Key is acting now while there's time.
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|Denis G. Rancourt|