By Ilya Kharlamov
The already highly explosive situation around Syria has been aggravated by the country’s air defence which shot down a Turkish reconnaissance aircraft which violated Syrian air space on Friday.
Damascus apologized but Ankara rejected the apology and, as a NATO member-state, demanded convening the NATO Council. The alliance confirmed that the session will be held on Tuesday, the 26th of June. We cannot rule out that NATO will use the incident with the Turkish aircraft as a pretext for taking action against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Was this incident caused by blind chance or was it a planned operation? This is the question asked by politicians and experts all over the world. The Syrian authorities insist that the Turkish aircraft equipped with reconnaissance devices violated their country’s air space and was shot down according to instructions given to the armed forces of any country, not only Syria. Damascus wasted no time in assuring Turkey that the actions of its air defence should not be considered a hostile step against Turkey.
Ankara’s response could be easily predicted. It accused Damascus of having violated international law and declared that the incident took place in international space. Experts are due to determine who is telling the truth. On the other hand, the incident itself gives reason to believe that it was not a shot at random.
The West and its partners, who have set their minds on deposing Bashar al-Assad, badly need a weighty precedent to go into action against Syria because they cannot reach their aim by any other means. Russia and China consistently support the Syrian people’s right to determine their country’s future and this policy is a serious obstacle for the West. In this context, the incident with the jet fighter of a NATO country is very timely for the international anti-Syrian coalition. Political scientist Stanislav Tarasov calls the incident on the Turkish-Syrian border a provocation of the Turkish authorities which NATO will not support so far.
“If the aircraft was armed and flew over the Syrian territory, this could have been considered an act of aggression. But if it was a reconnaissance aircraft that was discovered in Syrian air space, this is a typical provocation. Still, Turkey applied to NATO pretending to be a victim of aggression. It will be impossible to prove the fact of aggression because the radars of the Syrian air defence spotted the Turkish aircraft violating the Syrian border. Another reason for the incident could have been Turkey’s intention to test the Syrian air defence which was recently updated.”
The incident with the aircraft is not a key issue in the situation around Syria, expert Sergey Demidenko believes.
“NATO can do away with those out of favour even without a pretext. However, the Libyan scenario in Syria is unfeasible yet. Israel is opposed to such a blow because Israel would become the main target for Muslim extremists who would come to power in Syria as a result of such a blow. Moreover, Syria is not on the outskirts of the Arab world like Libya, Syria is in the very heart of it. Exploding Syria would mean exploding the whole region.”
Director of the Institute of Political Investigations Sergey Markov sounds pessimistic. He believes that the planned activities of Turkey as a NATO member-state are part of the plan to change the regime in Damascus. Markov is convinced that the forthcoming summit of the alliance will discuss the issue of hitting Syria’s military targets.
The incident with the aircraft has inspired the Syrian opposition as well. It has accused the Syrian army of escalating violence. Damascus, however, declares that Syrian troops have carried out an operation as a result of which they have destroyed several trucks carrying militants, including foreign mercenaries, and have repelled an attack of bandits who crossed the Syrian border from Turkish territory. The situation is very tense and its development will become clear after the NATO Council session.