Tension continues to build between Turkey and Syria after a Turkish military reconnaissance jet was shot down by Syrian air defenses while flying near the coastal province of Latakia on June 22. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), condemned Syria for the incident, adding that Turkey would retaliate against any further aggression.
Syria, on the other hand, has described the event as an act of self-defense, since the plane was in violation of Syrian airspace. Expressing support for its NATO ally Turkey, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the incident “a brazen and unacceptable act” and added that the United States was consulting with its allies and partners regarding “next steps” to be taken against Syria.
Invoking Article 4 of the NATO treaty, which provides for consultations by the member countries when one of them is threatened, the Turkish government called for an emergency NATO meeting in Brussels. Shortly after the meeting, confident of imperialist support thanks to a unanimous statement by his NATO allies denouncing Syria for the incident, Erdoğan arrogantly announced that any additional move by the Syrian forces towards the Turkish border would be considered a threat to be treated as a military target.
Following the prime minister’s statement, the Turkish military reportedly mobilized along the Syrian border with missile batteries, heavy artillery and armored units. The Syria-Turkey border area has been serving as a shelter for the Free Syrian Army, which is funded and provided with arms and training by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. FSA has acted as a proxy force for NATO since the beginning of the conflict. It is one of the key instruments of U.S.-led imperialism and its client governments in the region, fueling the civil war by escalating terrorist violence in Syria.
Unlike in Libya, NATO has so far not been able to play a more open and direct role, partially because of the firm stance of the Russian and Chinese governments, which have blocked all U.N. resolutions for intervention in Syria. Thus, the imperialists have been hoping that a prolonged and bloody civil war will eventually wear out the Assad government and its base of popular support. While this makes the possibility of direct NATO involvement less likely in the short term, the ultimate goal of regime change makes NATO intervention a clear and present threat.
Majority of the people in Turkey are against the war in Syria
In total contradiction to the AKP government’s hostile policies against Syria, an opinion poll recently published by the Ankara Social Research Center revealed that more than two-thirds of those polled opposed any intervention in Syria by Turkey. The poll also revealed that a majority, even those who support the ruling AKP, believe Ankara should not take sides in the conflict.
The Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) released a statement condemning the AKP government, calling the jet incident one of many AKP provocations against Syria, adding that this reconnaissance operation on behalf of the U.S. and Israel cannot be covered up with the rhetoric of “national unity.” The statement also demanded Erdoğan’s resignation. In April, a peace march organized by the TKP against imperialist intervention was repressed when the Turkish police blocked activists from traveling to Hatay, a Turkish city on the Syrian border.
It should not be a surprise to anyone that the Turkish population overwhelmingly opposes any form of intervention in Syria. With a NATO-backed military coup in 1980 that jailed over 100,000 people, torturing and killing many others for organizing and standing against imperialism, with numerous NATO bases all over Turkey that have been instrumental in the destruction and domination of their neighbor Iraq, and with their own oppressive government whose strings are pulled by imperialism, it would be fair to say that Turkey itself is a country under NATO occupation.
The people of Turkey are familiar with the kind of “human rights, freedom and democracy” brought about by NATO, and it is only natural that they oppose it for their Syrian brothers and sisters.