Monday, October 19, 2015

Forewarned

Turkey confirms it shot down drone near Syrian border
Turkey's deputy prime minister says an unidentified drone was shot down by Turkish warplanes after crossing into its air space near Syria. Rough Cut AFP
"We have not been able to establish who the drone belongs to, but we are able to work on it because it fell inside Turkish territory."
"They [Russia] apologized a few times, said it happened by accident, and that they have taken measures so that it will not occur again."
"This is not a method that will ensure Syria's unity. Nothing will emerge other than protracting existing chaos and war and more human losses."
"[Russian strikes near the Turkish border could lead to dangerous situations] This is a serious issue that could lead to accidents."
Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu
Turkey claims its warplanes downed a drone close to the Syrian border (AFP Photo/)

"Dozens of control facilities and ammunition depots, hundreds of terrorists and a large number of weapons have been destroyed."
"Russian air strikes will continue] for the period of the Syrian troops' offensive operations against terrorists."
Russian President Vladimir Putin

"I state with absolute responsibility that all our drones are either performing tasks or staying at the base."
"The sky over Syria is swarming with aircraft. Such intense and uncoordinated use of air power in Syria's relatively small airspace may sooner or later lead to an accident."
Col.-Gen.Andrei Kartapolov, deputy chief, Russian General Staff

That's somewhat crowded airspace over Syria with Syrian, Russian and U.S. coalition planes flying about on their various missions. Admittedly various parts of the sky describe target areas that are fairly dissimilar, since the U.S.-led air coalition aims directly for Islamic State targets and the Russian flights are concerned mainly with rebel targets. Syria is concerned with the rebel contingent, far less so of the Islamic State presence despite that it has acquired one-third of Syria's territory.

Turkey is less than enthralled that Russia, its number one trading partner and the source of its natural gas supplies, is targeting the Syrian rebels whom both the U.S.-led coalition and Turkey itself supports with funding and the supply of weaponry. Up to now rebel groups with their use of U.S.-manufactured TOW anti-tank missiles have withstood the Syrian regime's intended breakthroughs.

Moscow and Mr. Putin have somewhat recklessly wagered that they can temporarily enter this Middle East quagmire and come away unscathed, but with the purpose of aiding their Syrian ally to survive the combined albeit not fully-associated Sunni onslaught against the Alawite regime realized to a degree. But of course Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, much less Turkey are simmering with rage over Moscow's involvement.

If Vladimir Putin gambled that his paltry 30 combat jets in their flurry of missions could make a difference in a short period of time, enabling Russia to pull out after one or two significant successes, that he may be able to pull back and exit before he is committed to something long term that will end up interminably installing Russian forces in an ever-widening conflict with no end in sight, he may be cruelly disappointed by events beyond anyone's control.

His motivation is to secure Assad's longevity in at least the Alawite crescent to Damascus, to enable Russia to leave with some degree of satisfaction in having demonstrated to the international community that Russia is still capable of exerting a commanding position, one that was vacated by the Obama administration, which then had to hastily re-enter to patch up its enfeebled reputation. In the end, he may find himself in the very same position.

The volatile venom that permeates the Middle East with its tribal vengeance, clan cult of simmering hatreds and sectarian viciousness is capable not only of roiling the geography in its push-pull of masochistic sadism sharpened by the unforgiving nature of Sharia law, but its threat to suck into its orbit of black death any who dare venture to intervene is a sobering reminder that what begins in the Middle East should end there as well.

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