Thursday, November 24, 2016

Turkey blames Syrian government for the death of three Turkish soldiers.

A Turkish tank in Syria. AFP

Turkey is claiming that three of their soldiers were killed by a Syrian airstrike. AFP. The deaths are the first that Turkey has blamed on the Syrian government since their entry into the Syrian Civil War three months ago and comes on the 1st anniversary of Turkey shooting down a Russian airplane. Local sources say that the strike hit at around 3:30 am local time and occurred near the al-Bab area. 10 soldiers were also wounded in the attack, which was earlier blamed on ISIS militants. Turkish troops are in Syria to both fight ISIS, which is what they are doing near al-Bab, and fight the Kurds, which explains why their next target is Manbij. Turkey has now lost 15 soldiers since their operations in Syria have begun. 

My Comment:
I am getting pretty sick of Turkey causing some kind of drama on November 24th. Last year they shot down a Russian fighter jet on this date, which ended up with a dead pilot and a massive increase in tensions. Indeed, people were panicking last year with the threat of World War III breaking out for stupid reasons. Well, it looks like the Turks have done it again. This time they are accusing the Syrians of attacking them. 

Do I buy it? Without any other proof I am skeptical to say the least. My concern is how do the Turks know that this was a Syrian airstrike? Isn't the first explanation, an ISIS bombing, more likely? Right now all we have is what the Turks are saying and they have motivation to lie. After all, they hate the Syrian government and consider Assad to be one of their biggest enemies. I also think it is extremely unlikely that a Syrian fighter jet could get that close to Turkish troops without there being some kind of response from Turkish or American fighter jets. I just don't see a Syrian jet being able to pull this off. 

And I also don't think it makes any sense for the Syrians to kill the Turks in the first place. If it happened, it's not a rational act. Right now the Turks are killing the Syrian's mutual enemies, ISIS and the Kurds. Letting the Turks liberate al-Bab doesn't really hurt the Syrian government in any way. Especially since the Turks aren't that close to the city yet anyways. They still have quite a few towns and villages to clear before they even get close. It is true that there isn't much between the Turks and the Syrians after al-Bab, but again, they aren't in al-Bab yet. 

The only reason I can think of striking these troops is for a false sense of pride. After all the Turks have invaded Syria and that is an act of war, even if they are killing people that are fighting against the Syrian regime. The Syrians may want to invoke their sovereignty... 

Of course the most obvious possibility is that this was all just a mistake. The fog of war is real and it can occasionally lead to accidents, and those accidents can be mistaken for enemy action. It is possible that the Syrians did do this strike but they thought they were hitting ISIS or rebels. Such a mistake isn't uncommon, indeed, America did something similar in Dier ez Zoir a while back.

No matter what the cause of this strike, and even if it isn't real, the consequences could be severe. Local Arab sources are saying that Turkey is going to have some kind of response to this incident. Depending what that response is, this incident could expand into a larger war. Remember, Turkey is a member of NATO and Russia is Syria's sponsor and protector. Any war between Syria and Turkey could lead to World War III. That is pretty unlikely, but this incident makes it more likely than it was before. 

It's a shame because it looked like Syria was finally on the way to stabilizing. Once Aleppo falls, the rebellion will largely be over. And with a new offensive against ISIS in Raqqa, it is possible that ISIS could be on the way out as well. Our new President, Donald Trump, seems a lot more likely to work with the Russians than Obama was and he could probably end the war... assuming that it hasn't spun out of control by his inauguration...

Of course, there is the probability that this entire thing is for domestic consumption in Turkey. Turkey and her president, Tayyip Erdogan, aren't in the best position right now. Turkey just had a failed coup attempt that greatly destabilized the country and they haven't quite recovered yet. Setting up Syria to be a major enemy, killing their troops, could unite Turkey's people against a common enemy. Let's hope that it doesn't go beyond that... 

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