The Turkish military on Wednesday launched artillery attacks against Syria in response to cross-border shelling which killed five civilians in southeastern Turkey, sharply raising tensions that Syria’s civil conflict is spilling over its own borders.
“Our armed forces at the border region responded to this atrocious attack with artillery fire on points in Syria that were detected with radar, in line with the rules of engagement,” the Turkish statement said.
“Turkey, acting within the rules of engagement and international laws, will never leave unreciprocated such provocations by the Syrian regime against our national security,” it added.
Following the skirmish, Turkey held an emergency meeting with NATO’s National Atlantic Council. While the meeting resulted in a condemnation of the Syrian shelling, they stopped short of escalatory actions.
Turkey has experienced destabilizing effects from Syria’s conflict, and has even been aiding and arming Syrian rebel fighters trying to overthrow the Syrian regime, which 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.