Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is playing with matches. When he shot down a Russian bomber on November 24, he hoped to put NATO and Russia in each other’s crosshairs even though, in this case, Ankara is clearly the aggressor. It was an attempt to sabotage the Vienna peace process.
What we know:
- The SU-24 was shot down in Syrian air space and crashed inside Syria.
- The Turkish F-16 fired its missile, apparently, from two kilometers inside Syrian air space.
- If the SU-24 did indeed cross a sliver of Turkish territory, it only lasted several seconds, hardly enough time for ten warnings. The Russians maintain they received no warning and never entered Turkish air space.
- At no time was Turkey in danger of attack and they knew this yet still invoked NATO’s article five.
- Russia shared it flight plans with the US led coalition so the Turks had to know who was flying where, hence the Russian accusation the F-16s were waiting in ambush.
Erdogan does not want an end to the conflict in Syria. The Russian intervention turned the tables and at last forced the West to accept to sit at the negotiating table with the Syrian government. Those talks opened in Vienna on November 14. Ten days later, Turkey shot down a Russian plane jeopardizing the whole peace process as US led NATO allies felt forced to side up with Turkey in what was a clear act of agression to back its proxies in Syria.
Here is a list of proxies in Syria, many of which Turkey has aided, abetted or turned a blind eye to:
- Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS)
- The Islamic Front
- The Islamic Liberation Front
- Jaysh al-Islam
- Harakat al-Islamiyya
- Tajammu Ansar al-Islam (Gathering of the Supporters of Islam)
- Liwa al-Tawhid (Battalion of Monotheism)
- Liwa al-Haqq (Battalion of Truth)
- Al-Nusra (al-Qaeda offshoot)
- Yarmouk Martyrs’ Brigade
- Martyrs of Syria Brigade
- Free Syrian Army (a Turkish-founded militia enforcing SHARIA and slaughtering Non-Muslims. . . Google FSA atrocities if you doubt it!)
Turkey, like the United States, France and Britain, openly supports the Free Syrian Army which is operating in the area the Russians were bombing. This is a radical Sunni group which has committed numerous atrocities and war crimes, from throwing civil servants off of buildings, to shooting prisoners and reluctant Sunnis to persecuting religious minorities to at least one of its members cutting out and biting into the heart of a dead Syrian soldier before camera. The FSA is Erdogan’s kind of group. It imposes Saudi style Wahhabi Sharia law on the areas it controls in a country which has never known Sharia law. Eight million of the 23 million Syrians at the start of the war were minorities such as Christians, Druze, Alawites, Yazidis and Kurds. It remains true today that the Syrian officer corps is mostly Sunni as well as the majority of its soldiers. The fact is, Assad will not be deposed by rebel forces alone.
The massive influx of refugees into Europe this year has forced the West to accept the obvious, especially now that Moscow in involved: there is no solution to the Syrian conflict which ignores the government in Damascus.
In fact, it is quite likely that the solution will be based upon the new Constitution voted in a referendum in February 2012 and which was rejected by the West. This Constitution introduced a multi-party political system and limited the president to two terms.
At the time, President Assad said he was willing to stand down. Because of this refusal, and especially France’s rejection of any talks with Damascus, four years were lost for Syria and the world, but not for Erdogan.
By aiding the rebel factions, Erdogan’s entourage is making big money dealing in oil and arms with the Islamists, allegedly including the president’s son, Necmettin Bilal Erdogan. The Turkish president has been able to maintain fear and nationalist fever as a means to hold on to power. The secular Baathist regime is a threat to his Islamist program. The war also deflects attention from his brutal treatment of the Kurds in Turkey.
It is interesting that the day Turkey shot down the SU-24, the United States finally destroyed 283 ISIS fuel tankers used to illegally smuggle oil through Turkey. The Russian president denounced the complicity of some 40 countries at the G-20 meeting in Ankara on November 16.
One week later, Vladimir Putin made public satellite photos of convoys of trucks stretching from ISIS territory to the Turkish border. Some how, despite a year of bombing, the fuel trucks never showed up on American target maps.
The West must now choose between Erdogan and his political Islam and the greater threat of confrontation with Moscow or seeking a political solution to the Syrian conflict which includes Damascus and excludes Islamic extremists because Russia is not backing down. On November 26, Russia’s ambassador to Berlin, Vladimir Grinin said on German TV that Russia was thinking about putting boots on the ground and that Russia was there to protect Syrian sovereignty and not Assad, a clear hint Assad can go. Moreover, Russia says its bombers will now be escorted by fighter planes which means there will be no Turkey-shoot next time.