Tensions continue to escalate between Ankara and Damascus following Syria's downing last week of a Turkish plane. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has now sent troops and anti-aircraft guns to the Mediterranean neighbors' shared border, and Turkey has reportedly urged its NATO allies to consider drawing up plans for a no-fly zone if Syria commits further acts of aggression. Erdogan, whose government has already welcomed thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing Bashar al-Assad's deadly crackdown on the pro-democracy opposition, called the Syrian president a "bloody dictator," and warned that one more incident would force Turkey to "teach those who dare to test the limits of its might." Will Turkey do what the U.S., NATO, and the United Nations won't, and go to war against Assad?
Turkey might have no choice but to attack: Syria and Turkey definitely moved "nearer to war" this week, says Osman Cicekli at Euronews. If Syria crosses the line again, and certainly if it lets the fight against its rebels spill over the border, "Turkey will be seen as a weak country" if it doesn't follow through on its threat to fight. That could spell Assad's doom, as "the Turkish Air Force is more powerful than the Syrian Air Force in every way."
"Turkey-Syria military threat higher"
But Turkey still wants to avoid war: Ankara "had already moved some distance toward war" long before this plane was downed, namely by helping to pay for and ferry arms to Syrian rebels, says Robert Wright at The Atlantic. So these latest tensions have only pushed Turkey marginally closer to openly joining the rebels on the battlefield. Plus, look closely and you'll see that Erdogan appears to be trying to figure out how to back away from the precipice. He may just be talking tough to "reassure his people that he's no wimp."
"Are Turkey and Syria headed for war?"
And the Turkish people don't want to fight Assad: If you're waiting for Turkey to invade Syria, don't hold your breath, says Justin Vela at Foreign Policy. In polls, only 11 percent of the Turkish people are in favor of attacking. Ankara's own conditions for unilateral intervention — an overwhelming influx of refugees or a massacre in the border region — have yet to be met. Despite Erdogan's harsh words, it's still not clear he's "prepared to give the Assad regime a final push" — especially because his own people don't want him to.
"Turkey's not messing around anymore"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- It's official: The religious right is calling it quits
- Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects
- How science is accelerating our search for alien life
- The dangerously childish morality of liberal ObamaCare supporters
- 10 things you need to know today: November 23, 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- How to rescue the American family and fix the broken school system in one fell swoop
- Inside Turkey's shadow war with ISIS
- The slippery slope of Twitter's attempts to stop harassment against women
Subscribe to the Week