Merely a few years earlier, the Turkish and Syrian militaries were playing war games, side by side, against the potential enemy. Syria downed a Turkish reconnaissance jet last year; allegedly plotted two major bomb attacks against civilian Turkish targets earlier this year; and now, finally, Turkish fighter jets have downed a Syrian helicopter.
Turkey can always afford to buy a new F-4, and Syria, a new Mi-17. War toys, like real toys, always get broken when kids play with them aggressively. And, like real toys, they often get broken for no real purpose: The downing of the Turkish F-4 did not stop Turkey’s more than systematic efforts to do all it could to support Sunni jihadis; and the downing of the Syrian Mi-17 will not stop the Alawite jihadis in Damascus. All in all, a new line of a not-so-cold war is open for service now, eagerly awaiting customers.
Naturally, there will be loss of human life, be it by the right or the wrong weapon. But that’s fine. For the small kids who like to play aggressively, this is an emotional war game; it is a religious war.
Video footage shows the Syrian helicopter in flames, its descent, and a pilot who had ejected himself, slowly falling down into the loving arms of Sunni jihadis who were waiting for him shouting the incessant slogan “Allah-u aqbar! (Allah is greatest!)” Of course, the “freedom fighters” were not there to provide medical assistance. The crew was allegedly (but unsurprisingly) beheaded on the spot.
This religious war is being fought between those who kill en masse with chemicals in the name of tyranny and those who behead and eat human hearts in the name of God. And the Crescent and Star has just failed to understand that neither is good. This is not a war between good and evil; it is a war between evil and evil; and which evil is more evil depends, for the big boys of the neighborhood, on strategic interests, and for the over-enthusiastic small kids, on “which faith we want to advance.”
There will be more casualties, inside and outside Syria, because of Syria. Perhaps that is not fair. As a local from the old Antioch, where followers of Jesus were first labeled Christians, now Antakya, reminded in a letter:
“Rarely could one ever come across such diversity in demography such as here… This is what modern Turkey inherited when Hatay joined the Republic in the most peaceful way.
“The inhabitants of Hatay pride themselves in always remembering their neighbors as their next of kin, siblings, and most dear friends. And in doing so, no one ever recalls that one may be Sunni, Alevi, Nusairi, Jewish, Christian Orthodox or Assyrian. Not because they don’t know, but because they know very well, understand, feel and embrace. They embrace diversity because it enriches them.
“So, no wonder why these people are getting uneasy, nervous and, off and on, furious when they face the Syrian civil war and its risks to spill over. Add to that the risk of reviving sectarian divisions in Turkey, their borderline panic should be put in perspective. Fresh in their minds are the memories of such sectarian conflict and its heavy toll, which led to the 1980 coup.
“The Baath party in Syria never laid off claims over Hatay. Bashar, just as his father before him, never gave up the idea that Hatay should be part of Syria. Make no mistake: this civil war will be over, and even if the Syrian territory remains intact in the end within the larger strategic conflict involving the West, Russia and Iran, no government in Syria will let claims over Hatay go.
“And thus the confusion among the people of Antakya on Turkey’s policy toward Syria, given that the impact of the civil war is hurting them in ways they never knew before. The dynamics of the Syrian war are spilling over into Hatay territory, and those who come from Syria bring unto themselves the troubles that make the inhabitants of Hatay natural targets because of their sectarian and religious identity and diversity.
“They want their government to address and manage this situation.”