Whatever madness has possessed the Syrian dictator, it will ultimately lead to his downfall. Syrian forces have fired on another Turkish plane, deepening the crisis between the former friends and precipitating an urgent meeting of NATO on the confrontation.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told a news conference that Turkey would protect itself within the framework of international law against what it called Syria’s “hostile action” of downing its F-4 warplane last week.
Arinc said at the end of a seven-hour cabinet meeting dealing with the incident: “Everyone should know that this kind of action will not remain unpunished.”
But he added, “Whatever is needed to be done will definitely be done within the framework of international law. We have no intention of going to war with anyone. We have no such intent.”
Arinc said that shortly after the F-4 was shot down, four helicopters and two ships were dispatched on an initial search operation, followed by a military turboprop transport aircraft.
“Our plane, which had gone to rescue (the pilots), was fired upon. This situation was brought to an end following a warning from our foreign ministry. But yes, there was a short period of harassing fire,” said Arinc.
A foreign ministry official later said the plane returned to Turkish airspace immediately after being fired on and the search and rescue operation resumed following communications “through military and diplomatic channels”. He said there were no injuries to anyone aboard the transport aircraft.
According to Ankara’s account of Friday’s episode, the aircraft entered Syrian airspace briefly and by mistake while on a mission to test Turkish air defenses.
Some analysts have suggested it might in fact have been testing the responsiveness of Russian-supplied Syrian radar that could pose a major obstacle to any foreign intervention, including supply of Syrian rebels or reconnaissance support.
Perhaps Syria’s President Assad believes that going to war with Turkey will distract the world from the war he’s waging on his own citizens. Or, like many previous tyrants, maybe he thinks a foreign conflict will unite his fractured country and take the steam out of the revolt against him.
More likely, Syria is in chaos and no one is much in charge of anything, which has led to local commanders taking matters into their own hands. NATO is not likely to intervene in Syria as a result of attacks on Turkish planes. But the more that Assad blindly strikes out at his enemies, the more he tempts fate and strains the patience of the world with his brutal crackdown on civilians.