Could NATO get pulled into Syrian intervention by Turkey under the collective defense initiative?
By Madison Ruppert
Editor of End the Lie
One of the most fundamental principles of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is the principle of collective defense, wherein an armed attack on a NATO Ally constitutes an attack against all members of the alliance.
This concept could possibly be utilized by Turkey in the event of a large stream of refugees departing from Syria to Turkey in order for Ankara to call upon NATO to come to their defense under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.
This possibility was outlined in a recent article published in Turkey’s Sunday’s Zaman, in which it is said that the political will of NATO members will be the decisive factor in whether or not Article 5 is invoked in a situation where Turkey is not able to handle a refugee crisis without outside assistance.
With the repeated failed attempts to get a resolution on Syria through the United Nations Security Council – all of which have been blocked by China and Russia, the two countries which make up the most prominent opposition to the Western push to intervene in Syria – there is increasing speculation that Turkey and other NATO member states will intervene outside of the United Nations.
This is because NATO’s collective defense principle does not require a resolution from the United Nations to authorize an intervention, although it would obviously be desirable to have UN backing. Indeed the decision comes down purely to NATO partners and their determination of the severity of the threat – be it perceived or real.
The major problem I see here is that Article 5 stipulates collective defense requires “an armed attack” and a refugee crisis is unlikely to constitute an armed attack.
Some experts seem to support my contention, with Hüseyin Bağcı, head of international relations at Ankara’s Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) telling Sunday’s Zaman that the United States and other influential NATO member nations are unlikely to want to intervene in Syria after the invasion of Libya.
“Any claim by Turkey that foreign intervention is necessary, either on the grounds of security or humanitarian concerns, would fall on deaf ears,” Bağcı claimed.
I would disagree and point out the massive benefits reaped by Western corporations and the positive political implications of a perceived humanitarian intervention. Of course the situation in Libya is arguably even worse now than it was under Gaddafi, but that is mostly glossed over in the highly biased coverage provided by the Western media.
Bağcı claims that France and the United States will be less likely to get involved in Syria because of the upcoming presidential elections.
“Also, since the US withdrew its forces from Iraq, it does not want to enter into the Middle East again,” he said, which is so patently absurd I couldn’t help but laugh out loud heartily. I guess this supposed expert is completely unfamiliar with the buildup in the Persian Gulf region I have heavily documented in my “Iran: a quickly evolving geopolitical imbroglio” series along with the reconditioning of the USS Ponce to be used as a mothership for special operations troops in the region.
Either Bağcı is ignorant to the point of ridiculousness for anyone who sits at the head of an international relations department at a university (or really anyone who considers themselves informed on matters of international relations) or he is being willfully deceitful.
I truly hope it is the latter because it would be quite damning for Ankara’s Middle East Technical University to have such a woefully uninformed individual sitting as a department head.
Sunday’s Zaman reports that Turkish officials already claim that they are prepared to join a collective international initiative, either military or diplomatic in nature, which is aimed at regime change in Syria.
They claim that the 877 km-long border between Syria and Turkey means that the ongoing conflict in Syria poses a grave threat to Turkey, with unnamed human rights organizations cited by Sunday’s Zaman reporting that more than 10,000 Syrians have already fled from Syria.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said in televised remarks this week that “Turkey has opened its doors to those who flee from oppression,” clearly meaning the Syrian refugees.
However, he did emphasize that if this continues to the point where the refugees number in the hundreds of thousands, Turkey will be unable to cope, thus the need for an international initiative to be in place.
There also seems to be a bit of a covert war going on between Turkey and Syria with Turkey siding with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Syria siding with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
For instance, in late January, reports circulated in the Syrian media which stated that Syrian troops had stopped an attempted armed infiltration of Syria.
As I reported at the time, there were allegedly two training camps in Turkey where these individuals were being trained to infiltrate and attack Syrian targets.
The incident reportedly resulted in one death and one arrest with the rest of the members of the armed group fleeing back into Turkey.
Sunday’s Zaman reports that a PKK camp was discovered in Syria, near the Turkish border, back in October. They report that it housed 150 militants along with senior PKK commanders who allegedly have ties to Syrian intelligence agencies.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has made some slightly veiled statements regarding the PKK in the past, saying that “should [Turkey] attempt to exploit our problems, then its own problems will become much bigger. Their hostility will backfire on them.” He stated that “Turkey could fall into a state similar to ours.”
However, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that Assad does not have the “courage” to harbor the PKK in an interview with the semi-official Anatolia news agency.
Some say that Turkey will not actually take the initiative when it comes to a NATO intervention in Syria because it will negatively impact Turkey in the long run given their own internal problems surrounding the PKK. In the past Richard Cottrell has characterized this situation by calling the Kurds Turkey’s Palestinians.
“Turkey has more to lose than win from such an intervention,” Çağrı Erhan, professor of international relations at Ankara University’s faculty of administrative sciences, told Sunday’s Zaman.
Hopefully neither country will get involved in supporting dirty covert operations, be they carried out by the PKK or Free Syrian Army or any entity at all for that matter. Similarly, I hope that Article 5 will not be invoked in order to justify an invasion of Syria as I do not see how a refugee crisis could ever be construed as an armed attack.
Then again, documents like the North American Treaty are regularly interpreted in strange and seemingly nonsensical ways when it is needed so I do not think it is something that we can rule out just yet.