A US State Department spokesperson stated that Turkey hasn’t “raised this [fight jet shot down incident] at NATO at this point.” The truth is that Turkey wants to avoid a direct conflict with Syria, as much as Syria itself does; this is evident because of the increased communication between the two countries, Syria’s non-hostility statements, and the joint operations for the finding of the missing pilots and the jet. Yet, the incident in question, depending on the final results of the investigation, could be the perfect alibi for those international forces that want to intervene in Syria. This could happen through Turkey, as the dispute would now be a bilateral one rather than a matter of western “moral” understanding of the situation. A full scale military conflict between the two countries would then, most probably, lead to the invocation of NATO’s article 5 by Turkey, thereby creating the conditions for a full intervention in Syria by the allies. And thus the “perfect alibi”.
An inter-state armed conflict initiated because of a bilateral dispute, or the violation of international law, would be opposed with more difficulty by regional and international actors that are currently against an intervention in Syria. Although much remains to be seen, Ankara’s reaction, despite its harsh rhetoric, has been relatively calm while there has been statedthat Turkey is “not considering a military action now”. One can only hope that Turkey will respond and manage the situation in a non-confrontational way, thus also responding to the UN Secretary General’s, Ban-Ki Moon, request for restraint and diplomacy.
Published on The GW Post, June 23, 2012 .