Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian fighter jet this week was likely aimed at a bigger political target – to deal a blow to the proposal of a grand anti-terror coalition between the West and Russia for fighting the Islamic State extremist network in Syria.
Such a coalition might seem reasonable, even desirable, to most people. But it is profoundly unacceptable, tacitly, to Washington because it would further expose the criminal nature of the Western-sponsored regime-change operation in Syria.
Washington and its allies do not want Russia to participate in an effective military coalition that would accelerate the destruction of the mercenary terror army that the Western powers have covertly invested in.
In that regard, French President Francois Hollande seems to have momentarily lost the devious plot by proposing such an alliance with Russia.
On the face of it, Turkey’s attack on a Russian Su-24 appears to be a reckless act of aggression. And Washington has denied any involvement in the incident. But it seems significant that the shoot-down came on the same day that the American White House rebuffed France’s proposal of forming a military coalition with Russia against the Islamic State terror group in Syria.
Ankara appears to be hiding behind pedantic arguments about «rules of engagement» and defence of its territory. Turkey claims that the Russian Su-24 entered its airspace for «17 seconds». However, its bombastic protestations and scampering under the skirts of NATO betray a dirty deed.
The subsequent murder by Syrian Turkmen militants of one of the two Russian pilots as they parachuted to the ground – a gross war crime – has only compounded the anger felt by Moscow. The second pilot was reportedly rescued by Russian and Syrian special forces.
Russian President Vladimir Putin described the attack as a «stab in the back» and said that there would be «grave consequences» for Turkey, without specifying what those consequences might be. In principle, Russia has the right under international law to take military action against the perpetrator.
Already it can be gleaned that Ankara’s actions are incriminating. The Turk authorities claim that the Russian jet entered Turkey’s territory from across the border with Syria, and that their F-16 fighter jets fired an air-to-air missile following repeated audio warnings to the Russian aircrew.
But how screwy is that rationale, even if we accept it at face value? Why should Turkey react in such an aggressive manner towards Russia over a fleeting error, if that’s what it was? There seems, rather, to have been a premeditated urge to act in this excessive way by the Turks.
Russia’s defence ministry contradicts the Turk version, saying that its warplane was always within Syrian territory and did not pose any security threat. The fact that the Russian jet and the ejected pilots came down in Syrian territory indicates that Moscow’s account of the incident is closer to the truth.
Moscow’s contention of how its fighter jet was brought down is also corroborated by the macabre way in which one of parachuted pilots was killed by militants inside Syria’s border, as reported by the New York Times.
Moscow said that the fighter jet was «targeting Islamic State militants in the mountains of northern Latakia [in northwest Syria]». Turkey, the United States and other Western governments have been claiming that Russian air operations are mostly focused on striking «moderate rebels».
If that latter claim were true then why was one of the two Russian pilots summarily executed by the militants on the ground if those militants were «moderate rebels»? Why were the militants seen in video footage, which they released, gloating over the bloodied corpse?
Ankara, Washington and their NATO allies can’t have it both ways. If Russia is targeting moderate rebels – assuming that such a category exists – then why was the Russian pilot butchered in such a barbaric manner akin to the Islamic State or one of its related extremist brigades?
In any case, let’s not get waylaid by engaging in semantical shell games. Turkey, as with its other NATO partners and the Gulf Arab states, has been fully sponsoring terrorist proxies in Syria under different names.
The so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) and its notional moderates are just a convenient propaganda device that has allowed the US and its allies to sponsor terrorist mercenaries in a criminal, covert war for regime change in Syria.
President Putin, in his angry condemnation of Turkey’s shooting down of the Russian Su-24, avoided diplomatic niceties and bluntly labelled Ankara as a «terrorist accomplice». The Russian leader also accused Turkey of aiding terrorists in Syria by conducting oil trade with Islamic State militants who have commandeered Syria’s oil fields over the past two years.
At the G20 summit earlier this month, held in Turkey’s Antalya, President Putin presented a dossier on financial links to jihadist terror groups. He said those links showed that «certain G20 members were implicated in the financing of terrorism». That was taken to indicate Turkey and Saudi Arabia, among others.
At the G20 summit, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan chimed in with other world leaders in denouncing IS (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) in light of the massacre in the French capital, Paris, where some 130 people were killed in gun and bomb attacks on November 13.
The rank hypocrisy of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other G20 members in condemning «terrorism» did not escape Russia. The loss of 224 lives, mostly Russian tourists, onboard an airliner that was blown out of the skies above the Sinai desert on October 31 from a terrorist bomb has only served to harden Moscow’s resolve to eradicate the terrorists in Syria and to expose the state sponsors behind these groups.
Russia’s aerial blitzkrieg against anti-government mercenaries in Syria – whether they go by the name of IS, FSA, al Nusra, Islamic Front, or some other cover name – has, since September 30, wiped out thousands of foreign-backed insurgents. Together with Syrian Arab Army ground advances, this Russian air campaign is liquidating assets that the US and its allies have invested billions of dollars in for regime change in Damascus.
It is only a matter of time before the rhetorical shell game conducted by the terrorist sponsors comes unstuck. Washington, Ankara and the rest can’t just sit back and watch Russia destroying its proxy mercenary army.
Their cynical exhortations to Russia to avoid striking «moderate rebels» are having no restraining effect, simply because there are no moderate rebels worth talking of Russia is zeroing in on the West’s terrorist proxy army, and rightly so no-holds are barred.
In this context, the proposal of forming a military coalition with Russia is simply anathema, from the Western regime-change viewpoint. The idea had to be blown out of the sky. The shoot-down of the Russian jet by Turkey seems a symbolic repudiation of the proposed military alliance with Moscow.
The Russian noose on the terror networks and, more importantly, their state financiers is tightening. The tension is becoming unbearable, and Ankara obviously kicked out with the shooting down of the Russian fighter jet this week.
Washington reportedly denied any involvement in the incident, even though it has a plentiful military presence at the Incirlik NATO base in southwest Turkey, including F-15 air combat planes and sophisticated radar and communication systems.
It seems unlikely that Turkey would have acted singlehandedly in such a provocative way and in such a precarious situation where NATO and Russia were already on tenterhooks over the close proximity of their respective warplanes plying the skies over Syria.
Moreover, as President Putin pointed out, Russia and the US had recently signed an agreement ostensibly to avoid deconfliction of air forces in Syria. Turkey, as a fellow NATO member, would have been fully apprised of that agreement. So, how did such a deleterious lapse occur?
US President Barack Obama quickly upheld Turkey’s right to defend its territory, without having ascertained the facts surrounding the shoot-down.
It is significant that following the incident Turkey immediately called for an emergency NATO summit to confer with the 27 other members of the US-led military alliance. If the shoot-down was simply a random act carried out in the spur of the moment, then why didn’t Ankara get in touch with Moscow to iron things out and express condolences? Instead, as Putin noted, the Turks ran off to NATO without even as much as a call to Moscow.
The deadly attack against Russian forces occurred on the same day that French President Francois Hollande met with Barack Obama in Washington to discuss closer military cooperation with Russia in the supposed fight against Islamic State terrorism in Syria.
Obama politely, but firmly, rebuffed the French leader’s proposal for a grand coalition that would include Russia. Hollande was waved off with an earful of platitudes. And Turkey’s shooting down of the Russian fighter jet – only hours before Hollande was received at the White House – appears to have been timed in order to emphatically put paid to any idea of working more closely with Moscow to combat terrorism in Syria.
As noted above that rejection of Russia’s formidable anti-terror firepower is based on deep, covert and necessarily unspoken strategic reasons, owing to the real, imperative US-led objective in Syria. Namely regime-change and the deployment of terrorist networks for achieving that criminal objective.
By Finian Cunningham, SCF
© Strategic Culture Foundation