Tensions Between Turkey and Syria at NATO Border Escalates
As the confrontation between Turkey and Syria escalates, Ankara is readying not only for possible war against Syrian President Bashar Assad, but also against Kurdish separatists. Turkey fears they may be emboldened by the situation in Syria and resurrect their cause.
Necdet Özel, the chief of the Turkish General Staff, pulled his visor cap deep down over his face and placed his right hand on his holster. In Akçakale, where a Syrian shell killed five civilians in early October, and which has come under more artillery fire from the neighboring country since then, the commander of the Turkish army threated to strike back with “full force” if the shelling from Syria didn’t stop. “We are here,” he said, “and we are standing tall.”
Several tank groups rumbled up to a few meters from the border, and at least 25 additional fighter jets landed at the Diyarbakir air base. Özel’s message was that Turkey, whose army of 612,000 troops is the largest in the Middle East, is preparing for war with Syria.
The general’s army, second in size only to that of the United States within NATO, would likely defeat the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad within a few days. But an attack could drag NATO into the conflict, and it also poses substantial risks. The few shells that are landing on Turkish soil should be the least of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s worries. Indeed, he should be more concerned over a strategic maneuver on the part of Syria, whereby Assad is allowing the Kurds to do as they please on his side of the border, fueling the Turks’ fears of a new uprising by the Kurdish minority in their own country.