Davutoğlu said, “The downed Turkish jet was shot down in the international flight zone 13 miles outside of Syria’s flight zone.” He further noted that the jet was only tasked with a routine test of Turkey’s own radar system. In reference to Syria’s response, Davutoğlu said, “It is either amateurish behavior or ill-intention to describe the Turkish plane as a threat.”
Further, Davutoğlu revealed that Turkey has evidence that Syria knew it was a Turkish jet before it was shot down. Then Davutoğlu asked why, even if Turkey had violated Syrian airspace as Syria claimed, if Turkey was not the only country to do so in a short period of time, why didn’t Syria shoot down other countries’ jets? Perhaps Mr. Davutoğlu was referring two Israeli fighter jets that went into Syrian territory and bombed an alleged nuclear facility a few years ago. Syria did not take any action against the Israeli jets at the time.
Other than technical details, Davutoğlu made a number of points that would signal Turkey’s possible action plan against Syria. First, Davutoğlu said all options are on the table. Second, he stressed that Turkey will take action within international law. Third, he said Turkey will inform UN, NATO and Arab League states about Syria’s action. Davutoğlu mentioned in particular that he had discussed a possible action plan with Qatar’s prime minister. This detail is important because Qatar plays a critical role in the Arab Spring. Qatar’s role in the revolt against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime back in 2011 was particularly critical. Qataris were the ones who supplied arms to the opposition groups. Fourth, and most important, details about Davutoğlu’s statement revealed that Turkey will call a meeting of NATO members to discuss the crisis under Article 4 of the NATO charter.
Article 4 states, “The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.”
It seems that by consulting on the crisis under Article 4, Turkey is trying to gain some time, perhaps waiting for the American elections to be over, while escalating and internationalizing the crisis.
Given the fact that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan mentioned NATO’s possible intervention in the Syrian crisis a few months ago when Syrian forces’ bullets were fired into Turkey’s territory, Turkey will likely use the jet incident to bring NATO into the crisis.
With this strategy, it is likely that Turkey will find a real “excuse” to bring the Syrian crisis into the international arena. Erdoğan on a number of occasions has criticized the international community for ignoring the crisis in Syria. He once asked why the international community would not take action in Syria similar to what it did in Libya, positing is it because there is no oil in Syria?
The Syrian refugees in Turkey were not a good enough “excuse” for Turkey to raise its voice in the international arena. Now Turkey has that excuse. From now on you will see Turkey’s increasing attempt to push the Syrian crisis as the number one priority for the international community.
The domestic political pressure on the Turkish administration also necessitates that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government follows such steps for two reasons. Since the last election a year ago, the AK Party government has lost its momentum in domestic politics, and as a result receives harsh criticism from various sources. Thus the AK Party, by highlighting the Syria crisis, could try to escape from domestic criticism.
Second, the AK Party government made almost identical statements when Israel killed eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish American on the Mavi Marmara in the flotilla crisis. Yet the Turkish government has not gained anything from Israel. Israel did not apologize to Turkey and did not pay compensation for the victims. It was a big blow to Turkey’s prestige in the region.
Now Turkey, knowing that the international community has already isolated Syria, will use the jet crisis as an excuse to show its “strength” and regain its prestige if it can mobilize the international community against the Assad regime and if this crisis can be a basis for removing the Syrian regime from power.
Thus it is likely that Turkey will treat this crisis as an opportunity to regain its lost prestige in the region.