Turkey's NATO allies called Syria's downing of a Turkish jet "completely unacceptable" following an emergency meeting in Brussels on Tuesday. Bolstered by that Western support, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened a military response if Syria pushes its soldiers, who are trying to put down an uprising, too close to its Mediterranean neighbors' border. Despite the increasingly bellicose rhetoric — and a second incident Monday in which Syria aimed menacing fire at a rescue plane looking for the downed Turkish jet's two-man crew — NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says he doesn't expect the clash to escalate. But NATO's charter states that an attack on one country in the security alliance is considered an attack on all 28 members. Could tensions between Syria and Turkey draw NATO into a war?
NATO will avoid a war at all costs: This saber rattling "has the feel of a turning point that could drag Western powers" into Syria's escalating conflict, say Slobodan Lekic and Suzan Fraser of The Associated Press. But the "hard talk" is deceiving. NATO has no appetite for another war in the Middle East, nor do the Arab League and U.N. Security Council. Barring a truly dramatic change, a military intervention in Syria is "all but unthinkable."
"Syria's downing of Turkish jet unlikely to pull NATO into Syrian conflict"
But the risk of a regional war remains: The downing of one Turkish plane probably won't drag NATO into a war, says Jonathan Marcus at BBC News. But this latest showdown does justify "fears that the violence could move beyond Syria's own borders, prompting a broader regional conflagration." Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is increasingly desperate, and even though Turkey clearly wants to handle this diplomatically, if the fighting spills over Turkey's borders, all bets are off.
"Turkey seeks diplomacy, not war"
NATO may avoid the war, but Turkey is already in it: There is already "an undeclared, veiled war going on," Soli Ozel, a columnist for Turkey's Haberturk newspaper, tells TIME. Ankara is letting Saudi Arabia and other outsiders send arms over the porous Turkish border to Syrian rebels. Syrian opposition leaders meet in Ankara, and Syrian defectors and refugees stream over the border regularly. Turkey is already a player in this fight. Really, "how does Ankara expect Syria to respond?"
"Military intervention still unlikely after Syria shoots down Turkish jet"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
- The latent sexism of the male marriage proposal
- Bush vs. Clinton in 2016 is the perfect way to make millennials hate politics even more
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The week's best photojournalism
- This judge is the reason we're still fighting over net neutrality
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1: 10 major differences between the book and the movie
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
- What is Molly? Everything you need to know about the party drug
Subscribe to the Week