Syrian-Turkish Hostilities: NATO Wary of Involvement as Situation Escalates
Ankara was quick to respond to Syria’s Wednesday shelling of a Turkish border town. But NATO is worried that the escalation could make Western involvement in the Syrian conflict inevitable. Capitals across the alliance are urging calm.
In the jargon of diplomats, a “game changer” is an event that completely changes a situation. It doesn’t even have to be particularly spectacular. Just a small incident can sometimes be enough to alter the view of those involved and give a conflict an entirely different dynamic.
Syria’s cross-border shelling of a Turkish village may ultimately be seen as just such an event. On Wednesday, an errant shell landed in the Turkish border town of Akcakale, killing five civilians, including a woman and her three children. It wasn’t the first such incident, but it was, for Turkey, one too many. The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the “provocation by the Syrian regime” and ordered retaliatory strikes. On Thursday, the Turkish parliament in Ankara authorized the country’s military to launch cross-border raids.
The escalation in the long-bubbling border conflict has not gone unnoticed. The United Nations Security Council met in New York and the NATO Council gathered for an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday night in Brussels at the request of Ankara. Media speculation is rampant that the incident could mark the turning point in the Syrian conflict. The attack on NATO member Turkey could be enough to convince the alliance to finally move against Syrian autocrat Bashar Assad.
It is a question that has confronted NATO ever since violence broke out in Syria 18 months ago: Should the alliance intervene to stop the murderous fighting? So far, Western governments have done all they can to avoid being drawn into the complicated conflict. Furthermore, China and Russia have wielded their vetoes in the UN Security Council, blocking resolutions aimed at forcing Assad to step down.