A maelstrom is sweeping the Middle East and Turkey is in the center of it; is in fact the cause of it.
The only member of the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization military bloc in Asia, and one moreover bordering Syria, Iran, Iraq, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, it is intensifying military attacks inside Syria and Iraq and threatening to plunge the entire region into destabilization and war.
Having shelled targets inside Syria daily for a week after a mortar shell landed inside its southeastern territory on October 3, which Ankara blamed on the Syrian military, the Turkish armed forces have again, as they did two months ago, moved tanks, armored personnel carriers, missile defenses and troops to the border and have deployed 25 warplanes to a base in Diyarbakir in the Kurdish region of the country, both actions allegedly targeting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) though in fact part of a general military mobilization that will not be limited to strikes against that group’s fighters and supporters.
Turkey’s Doğan News Agency reported that 25 F-16 fighter jets and other aircraft arrived at the air base on October 8 and Today’s Zaman announced that 12 F-16s struck what were identified as PKK sites on Mount Qandil on the Iraqi-Iranian border.
The following day Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh denounced the violation of his nation’s sovereignty, stating “These Turkish attacks on Iraqi territories are not acceptable and we will take the necessary diplomatic measures” and adding, “We do understand the reasons behind such acts, yet we do not tolerate such breaches.”
Recently the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Iraqi parliament announced its intention to demand Turkish military forces leave the north of the country where committee member Safia al-Suhail stated there were 16 Turkish military bases inside Iraq near the two countries’ border.
Revealingly, on October 8 Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki arrived in Moscow where he visited the foreign ministry and will meet with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to discuss closer ties in the military and energy spheres.
A week ago the top military commander of NATO, Admiral James Stavridis, paid an unannounced visit to the Turkish capital to meet with Chief of General Staff General Necdet Özel and Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz.
According to the Turkish press:
“The Allied Air Command in İzmir came under scrutiny during the discussions. The command in İzmir was most recently on the public agenda during the debates over NATO’s early warning system in Kürecik, Malatya, which is a part of NATO’s missile defense shield. The Kürecik radar system was installed to observe Iranian skies for any missile threat.”
After the incident of October 3, NATO’s main civilian governing body, the North Atlantic Council, met in Brussels on Turkey’s prompting to discuss a joint strategy against Syria.
A statement issued after the unprecedented late-night meeting confirmed that, “In view of the Syrian regime’s recent aggressive acts at NATO’s southeastern border, which are a flagrant breach of international law and a clear and present danger to the security of one of its Allies, the North Atlantic Council met today, within the framework of Article 4 of the Washington Treaty…”
In language more evocative of the military bloc’s Article 5 war clause, the statement added: “In the spirit of indivisibility of security and solidarity deriving from the Washington Treaty, the Alliance continues to stand by Turkey and demands the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an Ally…”
Ahead of a two-day meeting of NATO defense chiefs, including the Pentagon’s Leon Panetta, to convene on October 9, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen proclaimed “I can assure you we have all necessary plans in place to defend and protect Turkey, our ally.”
On the same day Turkey’s head of state, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, threatened: “The state that is not ready for war at any moment is not fully developed. Turkey must be ready for war in any case.”
Hürriyet Daily News cited an unnamed Turkish official as confirming that NATO “was active on the issue [the escalating military conflict with Syria] behind the scenes,” with his comments paraphrased as follows:
“NATO has increased its military presence in the region with vessels patrolling in the Mediterranean Sea under Operation Active Endeavor and routine flights heading to its operations to Afghanistan, but these moves were not announced officially to avoid a reaction.”
Last week, only hours before the shelling incident that has provided Turkey the occasion for authorizing ongoing military attacks inside Syria, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told reporters in Moscow that his country had warned NATO and its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) against conspiring to manufacture pretexts for military intervention inside Syria such as demanding so-called humanitarian corridors or buffer zones inside the latter nation and launching armed provocations on the Turkish-Syrian border.
He said, “In our contacts with our partners both in NATO and in the region, including on international forums, we have called on them not to look for pretexts in order to carry out a [military] operation.”
The next day just such an incident occurred.
On October Ali Akbar Velayati, former Iranian foreign minister and current senior adviser to Ali Khamenei, accused NATO of laying the groundwork for war against Syria, stating, “Today, NATO is ready to issue a threat against Syria and intends to enter Syria under the pretext that one of the members of this organization [Turkey] has been threatened.”
Turkish is harboring, arming and training thousands of so-called Free Syrian Army forces while conducting major air strikes inside Iraq and near the Iranian border and massing troops and military hardware on the Syrian border in a campaign to exterminate the PKK, a lawless rampage fully supported by the U.S. and NATO.
Turkey and its NATO allies have lit a short fuse to a large powder keg.