Syria and Turkey’s Phantom War

By Pepe Escobar

Once upon a time, not too long ago, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was the prime proponent of a foreign policy dubbed “zero problems with our neighbors” – derided by many in the West as “new-Ottomanism”.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meets this Tuesday in Brussels not only to craft its response to a Turkish F-4 Phantom jet shot being down by Syria’s anti-aircraft artillery but to seal what sort of “new Ottomanism” is emerging from what actually turned into a “big problem with one of our neighbors” policy.

Davutoglu insists the F-4 was shot in international air space – although conceding it had briefly entered Syrian air space. Contradicting Syria’s official explanation, he said the jet was clearly marked as Turkish; was on a “training flight” to test Turkey’s “national radar system”; and most of all had “no covert mission related to Syria”.

Previously, Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi had stressed this was an “accident, not an attack”. According to Makdissi, “an unidentified object entered our air space and unfortunately as a result it was brought down. It was understood only later that it was a Turkish plane.”

Davutoglu, in a Turkish media blitzkrieg, as reported by Today’s Zaman, reiterated this was a “solo flight”; the jet was “unarmed”; there was no warning before it was shot down; and as for Syria trying to connect the “not ill-intentioned violation” of its airspace to the shooting of the F-4, that was “irrelevant”.

Violation of another country’s air space, trying to avoid its defenses by flying at low altitude, is as normal to Davutoglu as a sheesh kebab for lunch; “There were many violations of Syrian air space by other countries before. But Syria shot down our unarmed plane.”

But then the foreign minister started deviating (or not) from the script. He stressed, “No matter how the downed Turkish jet saga unfolds, we will always stand by [the] Syrian people”. And this; “We will always stand by Syrian people until the advent of a democratic regime there.” Forget about the F-4 Phantom; the “Syrian people” may sleep soundly because the heart of the matter remains regime change.

Everything else is irrelevant
NATO will consider Turkey’s case under Article Four of its charter – which allows consultations whenever “the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened”. We’re not – yet – at Article Five, which is all about armed response. But we could be, depending how NATO interprets Turkey’s assertion that the F-4 Phantom was “hit 13 miles off the Syrian coast, in international air space”.

So according to Davutoglu’s story the F-4 was briefly deviated to Syrian airspace by some irresistible force (Thor?); soon realized its mistake; left in a hurry; but then was shot down. By the way, it was not a “solo flight”; witnesses told Turkish TV they saw two low-flying fighter jets speed by in the direction of Syrian waters, but only one return.

As predictably as England being kicked out of Euro 2012, the usual European warmongering poodles of the William Hague kind have already stepped in, blaming Syria because Turkey violated Syrian airspace. Yet there’s no evidence – so far – that Ankara warned the Syrian government and military they would be conducting some sort of reconnaissance very close to a by now very explosive border.

Whether the F-4 (or the pair of F-4s) was armed or not is, to quote Davutoglu, “irrelevant”; try telling the Pentagon, for instance, that an unknown, low-flying, fast-moving, unidentified object entering your air space is not a threat. If this was a military reconnaissance mission, as Davutoglu himself argues, the F-4 had to be armed.

And imagine if this was a Syrian jet flying over Turkish or Israeli territory.

Burn, Anatolia, burn
Ankara will certainly ask Damascus for a formal apology and payment of reparations. Tehran – which until virtually yesterday, that is, before the Syrian uprising, was part of an Ankara-Damascus-Tehran axis – is calling for cool heads to prevail.

As much as professional warmongers are encouraging a Gulf of Tonkin remix, that remains pure folly. Still, Asia Times Online has learned from a local source about “frantic” movement at NATO’s sprawling Incirlik base in Turkey for days.

Everyone knows – but nobody talks about – NATO’s command and control center in Iskenderun, in Turkey’s Hatay province, near the Syrian border, set up months ago to organize, train and weaponize the motley crew known as the Free Syrian Army. Everyone knows Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the CIA are advising and weaponizing these Syrian NATOGCC “rebels” with essential Turkish help in the logistics/safe haven front.

Everyone knows Washington will settle for nothing less than regime change in Syria – to the benefit of a pliable, sub-imperial puppet (certainly not an Islamist). Everyone knows every provocation advances the not so hidden agenda of an all-out NATOGCC attack on Syria without a UN Security Council resolution, bypassing both Russia and China.

If “neo-Ottomanism” persists with its regime change obsession in Syria – to a large extent tied to the Turkish dream of finding a solution to the Kurdish “problem” – it had better start evaluating how Damascus could shower the Kurdish PKK with funds and logistics so they may unleash hell in Turkish Anatolia.

No doubt this will get much uglier. But in Wag the Dog terms – and that’s what this is all about – no one knows for sure; is Turkey trying to wag the NATO dog into a war, or is it the other way around?

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His latest book is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at

  1. #1 by NAeem on 06/27/2012 - 9:34

    The real islamic party in turkey was the welfare party they were disbanded and in came a watered down AK party . Its clear to intelligent muslims turkey is islamic in WORDS, they haven’t brought back dirham dinar, they still practise usury. The only thing they did was stop corruption which raised quality of life for most turks. Even though the syria regime isn’t islamic they have a anti zionist front which turkey doesn’t.

  2. #2 by abdurrahman on 06/27/2012 - 9:34

    Please, please, please, for the love of God do not compare the current ruling elite who are the descendants of apostates, to the Ottoman Turks. Firstly the rulers of the Ottoman Empire were Muslims, the current rulers follow the religion of Kemalism. Secondly, the Ottoman Turks would never have recognized the parasite called Israel, rather they did all they could to oppose it.

    During the last years of the Ottoman Empire the Jews approached sultan Abdulhamid II and offered to pay tremendous amounts of money to the Islamic state for Palestine. However, the sultan replied : I’m not going to give one inch of Palestine to the Jews as palestine is not mine to give, but it belongs to the ummah and ummah have shed blood to defend this land but if one day the Islamic state falls apart then you could have Palestine for free but as long as I’m alive i would rather have my flesh be cut up then cut Palestine from Muslim’s land, I will not allow any carving while we are alive !!!!!”

  3. #3 by SazzyLilSmartAzz on 06/27/2012 - 9:34

    I don’t know what the “ummah” is. Will someone help me understand, please?

  4. #4 by on 06/27/2012 - 9:34

    Syria should have sent a missile to Ankara, for what they’re doing!

  5. #5 by Al Hind Sipahi on 06/27/2012 - 9:34


    Ummah is a term used by Muslims to refer to the Islamic nation/community as a collective.

    Most Muslims hate the borders that exists today between Muslim countries as they did not exist in the past (which were created by the West-Euopean Imperial states). In days gone by, a Muslim could travel from Morrocco to Malaysia and his ‘passport’ would just be his faith, he could settle, earn a living, partake in politics and nobody would care about his/her ethnic group, language and other ‘differences’.

    The term can include non-Muslims who live in Muslim nations, under Muslim protection.

    Hope this helps.

  6. #6 by ruby22-kate on 06/28/2012 - 9:34

    Naturallly Syria is nervous, with all the aggressive warmongering directed at them. IMO, Turkey should be doing the apologizing for the incident.

    Since when did a sovereign nation lose it’s right to self defense?

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