By Igor Siletsky
Although NATO is not considering military action over the shooting down of a Turkish fighter jet in Syria, what happened is unacceptable and deserves condemnation, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after a NATO emergency meeting on Syria. His statement indicates NATO’s reluctance to use military force against Damascus.
On June 22, Syrian troops shot down a Turkish jet fighter. Syria insists that the plane violated its airspace and was destroyed over its territorial waters not far from the Latakia province. The pilots have not been found. Syrian commanders say they acted in full compliance with the law.
Turkey, which initially acknowledged that its F-4 fighter jet had crossed into Syrian airspace, now claims that it was in international airspace the moment the attack occurred.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu admitted soon after the incident that the plane had crossed the Syrian border 15 minutes before the attack. Later, Ankara retracted this statement and took a tougher stance. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recalled that Syrian helicopters had intruded into Turkish airspace on five occasions and that no retaliatory action followed. He made clear this would not be the case any more.
Some analysts think that the plane incident aimed at probing the combat readiness of the Syrian air defense forces.
On the other hand, it could be used as a pretext for a military operation against Syria. But NATO’s reaction to the incident makes the latter scenario unlikely.
Russian analyst Alexander Khramchikhin thinks that the latest hollow statement from Brussels is a sign that NATO is not planning any military intervention in Syria at least for the time being.
Political scientist Sergei Markov argues that intervention has actually started. Foreign mercenaries are fighting on the opposition’s side, and Syrian refugee camps in Turkey are being used to train armed opposition fighters.