Turkey seems to be doing its level best to make the crisis in Syria ever worse.
Yesterday Turkish F-16 jets forced a civilian jet en route from Moscow to Damascus to land on suspicion it was carrying weapons. At the time of writing there was no comment from Turkish authorities on the cargo, so one would assume the intelligence was wrong on this occasion. Let’s be honest, how long does it take to search a passenger plane for howitzers?
The controversial move comes as Turkey continues to mass forces on its border with Syria.
Public opinion in Turkey in against intervention in Syria, and the government in Ankara seems to be out of sync with its Nato allies in its recent increase in rhetoric. The last thing Obama wants before an election is yet another war in the Middle East, and the Europeans simply don’t have the money, the assets or the stomach for another scrap in the region.
If it did come a war between Turkey and Syria, there is little doubt that Turkish forces would have no trouble sweeping aside Assad’s exhausted and overstretched forces, most of whom use 1970’s Soviet vintage equipment. Indeed, most of the Syria’s 300,000 strong army are confined to barracks for fear units would defect en mass. Tens of thousands of officers have been arrested just in case.
The problem then of course is ‘what happens next’?
Assad and his mafia-esque regime would flee or be killed trying. With the best will in the world Turkey can’t occupy the whole of Syria. The motley crew of freedom fighters, local thugs, defectors, Jihadists and local militias that call themselves the Free Syrian Army would descend into chaotic infighting.
At the moment Turkey and Syrian seem content to lob shells at each other and make rather expensive holes in the sand. But it’ll get worse before it gets better.
In other news
-Iraq has agreed a $4 billion arms deal with Russia. Before the fall of Saddam, Baghdad and Moscow enjoyed very close ties. Russia is keen to regain a foothold in the regions after the Arab Spring. More on that here
-Israel’s government announced a surprised snap general election. The vote is being seen as a plebiscite on the government’s austerity program and its hawkish policy on Iran.
-Romney is inching ahead in some opinion polls in the US, despite positive news on the unemployment rates. The next presidential debate will be held on October 16th and will focus on foreign policy.
-The proposed merger of BAE and EADS has been torpedoed….by Germany. It’s not yet clear why Berlin scuppered the deal, but London and Paris have been left embarrassed by the move, especially after so much effort was expended talking the US around. Washington had expressed reservations about sharing sensitive defence technology with the Franco-German firm.