Syria’s shooting down the Turkish war plane is fraught with serious problems. First of all there is the issue of whether or not the plane had strayed into Syrian space. According to the Turks the aircraft was on a training flight and it had no weapons on board. It might have strayed into Syrian air space, but when it was hit, the aircraft was in international space!!
The latest in this saga is that Turkey has not only accused Syria of shooting down the aircraft without warning when it was in international air space but it has also started turning to NATO for assistance.
What does this mean? Since Turkey is aligned to NATO there is a good reason for Turkey to seek assistance in this matter. Syria under the Assad regime remains a rogue state. Turkey under Erdogan has been wishy washy. This incident is a good test for Erdogan because he has always made noises of backing Hezbollah and the Palestinians. Syria, of course actually funds the Palestinians via Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the past Turkey has maintained an alliance with Israel, but under Erdogan, Turkey was going in an opposite direction. Does NATO really want to get involved in these potential conflicts?
This attack is in fact a very serious matter, and in Turkey at least, the shooting down of this aircraft is already tantamount to Syria declaring war on Turkey. Considering the fact that Turkey has been sheltering Syrian opposition forces, this should come as no surprise. I am not at all certain that Turkey wants to go to war with Syria, however, this is now something that needs to be contemplated.
What kind of consultation will Turkey have with NATO? Will France and the UK in particular participate if Turkey goes to war with Syria? Should the USA get involved? Actually, this is where I believe that the USA should do nothing… there should be no military involvement in that region without the approval of Congress. This is a very different situation to the one that arose in Libya because it is a situation that is evolving between two sovereign nations.
It must be emphasized that Syria is allied to Iran, Russia and China, and any escalation of conflict could be seen as proxy action for those major powers. This is a very dicey situation.