Turkey, Syria, and Provocations
Two closely connected stories in today’s Times that suggest that a certain someone is trying their best to foment a regional conflict in Syria. The first is about the use of Turkey’s sovereign territory by the Syrian resistance as a refuge and resupply channel. The obvious implication of the story is that the Turkish government is at the very least aware of this and passively consenting to it. More likely is that this aid is happening with full Turkish approval. After all, it is public knowledge that the Saudis are sending cash and probably arms to the Syrian rebels – the Times mentions the cash packets but elides the obvious question of where these large amounts of cash are coming from. Given that the smuggling operations have at least the tacit approval of the Turkish government, it doesn’t seem insane to wonder if the Turks are funding the opposition.
The second story is closely connected, and ostensibly keyed to Syria’s shooting down a Turkish fighter jet last week. Turkey, as NATO expresses support in the jet incident, has warned Syria to keep its military forces away from the border, and says that any military unit approaching the border that could even reasonably be construed as threatening will face immediate Turkish military response. I say that it is “ostensibly” keyed to the jet incident because it actually matches up much better with the story I describe in the first paragraph. Turkey has been using the border to funnel material aid to the rebels, and has today told Syria that any attempt to shut down this conduit will face a Turkish military response, even if Turkey’s territory is not violated.
I wish I knew what Prime Minister Erdogan is thinking, because if I were him and attempting to internationalize the Syrian Civil War I’d be acting more or less as he has over the past few weeks. Perhaps that is his intent, or perhaps he is merely concerned about the spillover effects and wants to maintain a cordon of security around the Turkish border. But the prospect that it even looks possible for a NATO member to be laying the groundwork to intervene in Syria is pretty concerning.