Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.
It goes without saying that the ongoing Syrian civil war, which began in March 2011, shows no signs of ending. While this increasingly violent conflict has, heretofore, remained largely contained within that country’s borders, Damascus’ increasing desperation threatens to engulf its neighbors – particularly Israel and Turkey.
If this conflict does crossover into Israel, Tel Aviv will have no qualms about viciously striking back. Turkey, when faced with a similar scenario, will have to make the much more difficult decision of either attacking, or supporting an attack on, another Muslim nation – even though that nation may have attacked it first. The probability of this scenario increases with every Scud missile launched by the Syrian government that comes close to landing across the border into Turkey – according to NATO, one recently landed within 20 miles of the Turkish border.
Ankara, though, isn’t waiting for a Scud to land on its people and, in November, asked NATO for Patriot missiles that would help it intercept any such incursions. Following NATO’s approval of this request, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States – the three members with this capability – will deploy six Patriot batteries and around 400 personnel each to Turkey by the end of January 2013. These foreign troops will be joined by a few hundred Turkish soldiers, which is a surprise to me because I didn’t expect the Turks to be surpassed by the visitors.
It’s unclear, however, if the Turkish people share their government’s positive reaction to this deployment. There have been a few protest marches, with more planned for the coming days and weeks, but they have been sparsely attended. On the other hand, this issue has united the opposition and that should concern the government. I predict, though, that if Syrian missiles do cross over into Turkey then the Turkish people will support any response by their government, even if it includes foreign non-Muslim troops going into Syria.
Unsurprisingly, Iranian reaction to this deployment has been entirely negative with Tehran stating that the primary purpose behind NATO’s action is to protect Israel against possible Iranian strikes. Senior Iranian military officials also stated that the presence of these batteries would expand the Syrian conflict into a world war. I don’t know how much credence we can give to the Iranian complaints but we should recognize that Syrian bombing of Turkey and the latter’s response will exponentially increase the scope of this conflict and may bring Russian troops to the region.
Regardless of the scenarios – one where nothing significant happens and the other where the conflict expands – innocent civilians continue to be killed in Syria and Assad’s regime lurches further towards collapse. Syrian officials have no credible options for escape or exile and, therefore, have no choice but to try everything at their disposal to either delay or stop the rebel’s advancement. Consequently Turkey is left with no option but to ask for international assistance and the global community has no choice but to answer the call.