BARÇIN YİNANÇ > Is Syria trying to kill three birds with one stone?

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When Syria shot down a Turkish civilian plane belonging to the land registry directorate 23 years ago, relations were not exactly good. However, after listening to radio communications made between Syrians during the incident, the Turkish side concluded that it was an accident. “We could clearly hear a Syrian official yelling at the other for having shot down the plane,” a former Turkish diplomat familiar with the incident told me. The case was closed when the Syrians agreed to pay compensation for the incident.

Listening to the latest radio communications, the Turkish government seems convinced that the shooting down of the Turkish reconnaissance plane last Friday by Syria was not an accident. Ankara has concluded that not only did the Syrians know it was a Turkish plane, but that there was a sort of a decision-making process proving that this was not simply the decision of a junior official.

Looking at the political background, we have to underline the fact that Turkey is currently in a position hostile to Syria. Not only does it openly want regime change, but it is also hosting opposition groups. The importance, of course, is the fact that it is not alone in seeking regime change and in supporting the opposition.

So far Syria has been extremely careful not to openly confront Turkey. So, the question one has to ask is: Why has Syria now decided to take a step that is sure to infuriate Ankara? While suffering from international isolation, why would it take a step to further rouse the reaction of the Western alliance?

Is it a show of force against Turkey? “While you are trying to unseat me, don’t expect me to sit and watch.” Is that what the regime is saying to Ankara?

“This is not a typical Syrian move. Syria does not usually engage in open hostile actions. It usually hits quietly,” the same Turkish diplomat who is familiar with Syria told me.

Actually, while Syria was very careful in its official rhetoric towards Turkey, it was already sending the message that it would not stand still. It did so by letting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) move freely in Syrian territory, and by bribing members of the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MİT) to hand over defected Syrian army officers, in accordance with “avoid open confrontation, hit quietly” approach. (For those not familiar with the issue, let me recall that Syria was successful in bribing one MİT official to hand over an army officer, while it has been also revealed that similar such initiatives have been prevented by Turkish security forces.)

The question, then, is why has Syria now decided to openly confront Ankara, rather than “hitting it quietly?”

Maybe, it was aiming to kill three birds with one stone. One, to make a show of force to Turkey; two, to send a message to the opposition not to rely too much on Turkey; three, to send a message to the international community saying: “Don’t mess with me, I can turn the whole region into a fireball.”

The answers to these questions will determine Turkey’s next steps, as well as the international support it will get for these steps. It might choose to “somehow” hit back, get even and close the case, or it might try to use this occasion to continue harassing the regime militarily in order to trigger a controlled hot engagement with Syria, with the conviction that this might quicken the end of the regime.


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jafri mohd

7/17/2012 4:46:17 PM

why do you people [ WRITERS] not talk about unity ?? why are you provoking on fighting only?intellectuals and writers are supposed to talk to end the clashes between people... but here i find something very different ... it seems as they are US-paid writers who are allocated money to create the feelings of disturbance in the in such a crucial and important region for Muslims all over the world !!!why do you not talk about peace and unity of Muslim countries?????

Yousif Yacoub

6/26/2012 9:29:50 PM

I do'nt agree with your assumptions at all which presume that Syria has planned this incident!!. Everyone knows very well that the aircraft has (accidentally?) penetrated the Syrian airspace and shot down within the syrian territories. Syrian military response by shooting the craft was not discussed by Assad's government. It is a matter seconds. Turkey,Unfortuanately, has been trapped in this dirty game led by the west and its allies in the region in the interests of Saudis and Israelis.

Deniz Can

6/26/2012 8:15:14 PM

Dear Barcin you have made a very complicated case by generating too many scenarios for Syria, without questioning the role of Turkey. Syria is in a desperate situation. Turkey has been taking an open hostile position. Syria targeted the airplane because of physiological, political and military reason! It is a Pity! to see that you have justified the war rhetoric of Turkey and don't question what the mission of the plane in this critical time war. Have you seen any winner of the war?

Joshua Bronxman

6/26/2012 4:54:14 PM

The Syrian regime is now much weaker than it was 15 months ago. The possibilities of an internal collapse are rising. Assad is the problem, not Turkey, NATO, US, or Israel. Turkey will have to show resolve, but that doesn't mean war. At least for now

Turk down under

6/26/2012 3:46:01 PM

Shouldn't all the facts be gathered before pointing the blame on either side. Selim: Yes, what of the lives of these poor pilots and the sorrow descended on their families. I hope Yalcin you are wrong and that Turkiye wouldn't sacrifice its sons to prove a point. Lets end conspiracy theories and wait for facts to be released

Blue Dotterel

6/26/2012 2:42:34 PM

Burcin, your assumptions are erroneous and biased. The question is, why did this warplane fly into Syrian airspace? Was it, one, to test Syria's air defense system; two, to provoke Syrian air defense into shooting it down to add to the NATO member black propaganda campaign against the Assad regime, or three, to deceive the Turkish people into allowing a Turkish attack, and further loss of life, on Syria in support US and Israeli global and regional interests. Answer: all of the above.

Yalcin Gedik

6/26/2012 1:53:02 PM

A pawn has been sacrificed by Turkey to checkmate the Syrian dictator.

sam stevens

6/26/2012 11:27:32 AM

I'd say, firstly Turkey was very very silly pushing her luck flying into such a disrupted country where tensions are high. Secondly I understand why Syria would want the world to see she will not tolerate interference in her affairs. Thirdly, Turkey will look far better if she accepts her mistakes & the apologies of Syria & puts the whole incident down as a catastrophic error...by 'both' countries !

Selim Bisevac

6/26/2012 10:17:37 AM

Agree uniateral action if any would have to be measured , possibly a limited strike ans take the air defence position that shot the plane and warn the Syrians any further trigger happy members of your armed forces will face overwhelming force if provoked. Important to remember the lives of the pilots! This crime should not go unanswered .

Dennis Kavaz

6/26/2012 6:16:37 AM

Dear Burcin from the sound of things the two Turkish pilots and the air craft are lost, still by trusting the Syrian regime Turkey has made a tactical mistake, the best for Turkey is not to retaliate, the end result the Turks would be criticised by her neighbours (There are still many decent people left in Syria) The best thing for Turkey and colleagues is not to rise the stakes but sit back and watch the Syrian regime destroy their own nation “let nature take its course”
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