For the second consecutive day Turkish military forces bombarded Syria’s border region with artillery. Several Syrian soldiers are reported dead from the assault in the Tel Abyad district. Civilians have also suffered injuries, according to unconfirmed video footage, despite Turkish claims that its forces are using military “rules of engagement” and radar to select targets.
Turkish military action was said to be in response to a deadly mortar attack from Syrian territory on the Turkish border town of Akcakale in which a woman and four children were killed when a shell struck their home on Wednesday.
Western media differed in their reports of that incident. German newspaper Deutsche Welle said that one shell had been fired from Syria; the BBC reported a number of shells launched “apparently by Syrian government forces.” Reuters said it was not clear who was responsible.
The Syrian government immediately announced that it would investigate the origins of the alleged attack. Information Minister Omran Zoabi said: “Syria offers its sincere condolences to the families of the victims and to our friends, the Turkish people.”
However, the hasty official response by Turkey and its allies suggest that there is more to this incident than meets the eye.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned “this atrocious attack” and called it a “provocation by the Syrian regime against our national security.”
The Turkish artillery bombardment is the first time that its military has become directly engaged in combat with Syria since conflict broke out in the latter country 18 months ago. Previously, Turkish forces have mobilized along the border especially following the shooting down of a Turkish fighter jet by Syrian anti-aircraft defences on 26 June.
Damascus has accused Ankara of covert involvement in fomenting violence in its country. Just this week, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem complained to the UN General Assembly in New York that Turkey, along with Western powers, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, is arming insurgents to destabilize the government of Syria. A string of car bombs in the Syrian city of Aleppo on Wednesday killing more than 40 people and injuring as many as 100, mostly civilians, underscores the deadly nature of foreign-backed violence assailing the country.
In this context, Erdogan and Clinton’s outrage over Syria’s alleged provocation is beneath contempt.
Nonetheless, the Turkish artillery action in the last two days marks a serious overt escalation in the conflict between the neighbouring countries.
Turkey convened an emergency meeting of the 28-member NATO military alliance in Brussels late Wednesday night. A NATO statement subsequently condemned Syria: “The alliance continues to stand by Turkey and demands the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an ally, and urges the Syrian regime to put an end to flagrant violations of international law.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “We are outraged that the Syrians have been shooting across their border.”
While a Pentagon spokesman said: “This is yet another example of the depraved behaviour of the Syrian regime, and why it must go.”
Adding to the rush to condemn Syria and find it guilty before proven, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned Damascus that it “needs to respect the sovereignty of its neighbours.”
This pattern of violence, outrage, condemnation is becoming tedious and predictable. In recent months, the world has been “shocked” by several massacres in Syria, to which Western governments, their regional allies, the Western mainstream media and the supposedly neutral UN have all responded with knee-jerk choreography to condemn Syrian armed forces.
Massacres in the villages of Houla and Qubair, for example, in which up to 200 civilians were butchered were later found to have been perpetrated by the Western, Turk and Arab-backed militants.
The truth only emerges in a piecemeal way when responsible journalists follow up with in-depth investigation of the incidents. But by then the Western-led condemnation-machine has moved on to some other alleged incident leaving behind an impression of guilt on the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Given the pattern of covert foreign subversion in Syria – an entirely criminal enterprise – it is plausible that the latest “atrocity” of a shell killing a family in Turkey was perpetrated by the same mercenaries that have carried out massacres of villages inside Syria. It is also plausible, indeed probable, that the atrocity was carried out with the foreknowledge of the suppliers and handlers of these foreign death squads to create a pretext of provocation leading to military action.
The Turk, Arab and Western-backed mercenaries have been active in the area for the past few weeks, according to reports. There have also been reports of these foreign-backed mercenaries harassing and extorting Turkish communities for money and goods.
Just recently, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov warned that these militants would “seek pretexts for carrying out a military scenario or to introduce initiatives such as humanitarian corridors or buffer zones.”
It has to be borne in mind that the Syrian armed forces appear to be getting the upper-hand over the foreign-backed militants, with hundreds killed or arrested in recent weeks. The covert destabilisation plan seems to be losing ground in Syria. This losing-battle scenario has prompted more strident calls for direct military intervention within the Western axis trying to topple the Syrian government.
Apart from the obvious reason of contriving a “false flag” operation to precipitate outright foreign military involvement in Syria, there is another strong motive for the Turkish government.
The Turkish people are growing increasingly critical of the Erdogan government over its malevolent interference in their southern neighbour. There are reports and evidence emerging among opposition parties of Ankara’s collusion in crimes against humanity in Syria. This is creating much misgiving among the Turkish public over the appalling violence that they see their government responsible for in Syria. Public dissent against Erdogan’s policies is especially pronounced in the southern border areas where the latest atrocity occurred. Community leaders and businessmen have voiced deep concern about the traffic in mercenaries who are crisscrossing the border and preying on Turkish civilians. One shopkeeper in Latay Province told media: “We are surrounded by murderers here” – referring to the foreign-backed armed gangs who retreat into Turkey to rest up between bouts of terrorist actions in Syria.
Following the deadly attack on the Turkish family in Akcakale this week, local people are understandably furious over the lack of security. This could be the Turkish government’s way of silencing dissent and mobilizing a war spirit within its population. There again, like so many other of Erdogan’s foreign policies, if the Turkish people begin to suspect a murderous stunt, they will certainly be provoked – to condemn the Ankara regime and its criminal intrigues.