Turkey Has Fired on Syria 87 Times, Killed 12 Syrian Soldiers

The Assad regime appears reluctant to escalate conflict with Turkey, while NATO hopes to contain the violence

by John Glaser, October 20, 2012

The Turkish military has fired on Syria 87 times in recent weeks, killing 12 Syrian soldiers and destroying several tanks, supposedly in retaliation for Syrian shells and mortars landing across the border into Turkish territory.

Turkey has been firing on Syria ever since Syrian shells killed five Turkish civilians in early October. Ankara continues to claim its ongoing cross-border attacks are merely retaliatory, but its response has been disproportionate and many observers think Turkey has ulterior motives and is vying for a NATO intervention.

Turkey has experienced destabilizing effects from Syria’s bloody civil conflict, but its decision early on to aid and arm Syrian rebel fighters trying to overthrow the Assad regime was irresponsible, and also could potentially prompt an outbreak of war.

Ankara may want an escalation in the stand-off with Syria, but there will be no NATO war without US backing. Although the US has been meddling in Syria’s conflict – by sending aid to the rebel fighters and fueling the violence – many in the US  still don’t see an outbreak of war in Syria as workable.

The sectarian nature of the conflict brings back very fresh memories of the power vacuum and subsequent descent into chaos that broke out in Iraq. Furthermore, the opposition has elements of extremism and even al-Qaeda in it, and there’s no viable organized opposition for anyone to support.

Half measures like imposing a no-fly zone would also worsen the situation, given Assad’s considerable anti-aircraft capabilities, which are located in urban areas, putting more civilians at risk if the US were to try to take them out. This is also likely to expand the conflict outside Syria’s borders, something even war planners aren’t willing to risk.

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