NATO Claims Ready to ‘Defend’ Turkey Against Syria

NATO chief repeatedly makes the same perfunctory promise, even as US rejects direct military action

by John Glaser, November 12, 2012

NATO’s Secretary-General issued another perfunctory statement on Monday about defending and protecting Turkey, a member-state, against Syria if indeed a war were to break out.

“Turkey can rely on NATO solidarity, we have more plans in place to defend and protect Turkey, our ally, if needed,” Rasmussen told reporters in Prague.

But this is largely an empty statement. The same statement was issued in early October following skirmishes and shelling along the Turkey-Syria border.

If was were indeed to break out, it’s true NATO would mobilize in defense of Turkey as the charter obligates. But Western powers are desperately trying to avoid such escalation.

Ankara may or may not 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.

Even America’s top military official, General Martin Dempsey, has explicitly denounced the viability of direct military action in Syria.

The sectarian nature of the conflict in Syria 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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