The loss of a Turkish F-4 warplane over the Mediterranean, off the coast of Syria, on Friday has set the stage for a high-profile NATO meeting to decide exactly what the military alliance will do to Syria in retaliation.
The details of the shoot down aside, the meeting gives the alliance what many of its members have been seeking, an opportunity to argue a plausible reason for a military invasion of Syria and a NATO-imposed regime change.
Turkey is calling the alliance together on the basis of Article 4 of the NATO treaty, which provides for meetings “after a member is attacked.” This seems the loosest sense of the word since Turkey has admitted to violating Syrian airspace and Syria insists it didn’t know what the plane speeding toward its coast was.
Turkey did not elect to try to use Article 5, which would be a much more serious incident, because it would be even harder to claim that the apparently inadvertent downing of a single military aircraft after a territorial violation constituted a serious threat to Turkey’s territorial integrity.
The facts of the incident are likely to be extremely secondary, however, as nations like Britain and France, which have made no bones about seeking NATO regime change in Syria, look to spin the incident as proof they need to start a war.
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