So now the latest trick Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has up his sleeve is to quibble with the Arab League about terms & conditions for the the 500-person monitoring team they want to send there? He needs to start paying attention to that rumbling sound coming from his borders:
This links to an article from the authoritative German national daily Die Welt about how Syria’s neighbor Turkey – whose Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once termed al-Assad his “brother” – is beginning plans to make its own intervention into the Syrian national uprising go beyond mere words. First of all, it’s starting to prepare to impose its own no-fly-zone on the country. Also, according to the authoritative English-language Beirut newspaper The Daily Star, Turkey wants to seize a strip of Syrian land along the common border as a “security zone.”
Don’t get too excited here about the Turks’ zeal to help out their neighbors, though: the main function of such a zone would be as a place for Syrian refugees to be able to stay for a while in safety from their government, rather than have to cross over into Turkey proper. To the south, Jordan is said to be considering this sort of a move too, and both countries are gaining support for it among Western and other Arab countries as al-Assad continues to be intransigent.
By the way, there is an important US airbase in Turkey, at Incirlik, maybe 120km from the Syrian border. The Welt article also mentions US support of Jordanian armed forces, which might get the Americans involved here that way.
Of course, some representatives of the Syrian rebels – in particular the Muslim Brotherhood there – have already called for full-scale military intervention. Turkish, that is; most still will not accept any such explicit help from Western powers. Still, for all the Turkish sabre-rattling, there are also important questions to give its leaders pause. A no-fly-zone – and even just trying to seize enough Syrian territory for the “security zone” – would require disabling Syria’s air force, built around 100 advanced MiG-29 fighters – is the Turkish air force up to the job by itself? Foreign Minister Davutoglu has also made recent statements that Turkey would really rather not go it alone when it comes to any intervention. It would surely require explicit Arab League and UN Security Council approval for any such step, as well as probably co-belligerents (and Jordan alone would likely not be sufficient).
Then again, Syria also currently depends on Turkey for much of its electricity, and for the water coming over the border from Turkish highlands in the form of the Euphrates river. What’s more, the recent attack by a Damascus mob on the Turkish embassy there – complete with burning Turkish flags – was itself not very “brotherly.”