On 25 November a Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter, allegedly flown by NATO Turkish pilots, shot down a Russian Sukhoi bomber over Syria. The Turks claimed that the SU-24 violated their airspace, apparently by a few kilometers -- or seconds in flight time at most. The Turks claimed to have issued 10 warnings during an overflight which, if it occurred at all, could only have been brief. There’s no evidence that the Turk pilots were on Guard, or any radio frequency that would have allowed the Russians to hear warnings.
NATO and DOD had previously refused to collaborate with Moscow to deconflict air operations against Syrian jihadi and mujahedeen. Turk and American governments quickly claimed that Turkey has a right to defend its airspace, yet neither Washington nor Ankara could say from what. How Russian airstrikes in Syria threaten Turkey is not really much of a mystery. Russians were known to be bombing terrorist oil targets south of the Turk border – too effectively it seems.
The distance from Incirlick Air Base to Atakya is about 72 miles. That Turkish flight of US manufactured F-16s was very likely under USAF positive air control, airborne or ground based. And the idea that the Turks or Americans at Incirlik AB can't identify an airborne SU-24 is equally ludicrous. This incident was pre-planned at worst or coordinated in the air at best. (Hat tip to Putin’s and Lavrov's analysis.) DOD may not be able separate Muslim moderate from Islamic terrorist on the ground, but aircraft recognition or ID should be a no-brainer even for Air Force “professionals.”
The summary execution of a Russian pilot in his chute is testimony to the caliber and cowardice of US allies like Turkey and so-called Turkomen "moderate" rebels.
The NATO shoot down was one of two things, an unfortunate accident or a shot across Russia’s bow, indeed, a dangerous provocation. The evidence supports the latter. After all, the Russians are in Syria by invitation, the US and Turkey are not. Vladimir Putin characterized the incident as a “stab in the back” committed by “accomplices of terrorists.” The Russian president may be correct this time, on both counts.
Perfidy is the most likely explanation of the SU-24 incident, but incompetence might still be in the running. Ash Carter and his merry band of flaccid flags at the Pentagon are not having a winning season. A USAF AC-130 gunship in Afghanistan mistook a hospital for a Taliban headquarters recently. The operational incompetence that oft characterizes the fight in South Asia could be having echoes at joint base Incirlik.
When the American president says the Russians are bombing anti-Assad “moderates,” he fails to say that these groups are also the same arms merchants, human traffickers, and oil smugglers that finance the Islamic State. Indeed southern Turkey is a haven for Sunni terrorist training, arms depots, sanctuaries, and smuggled oil. Perfidious Turks are flushing Muslim immigrants West to Europe and flushing jihadi, arms, and oil dollars south to those “nefarious characters” in Syria and Iraq.
The truth about northern Syria today is that it is a multinational pig sty of Muslim opportunists most of whom will sell their gun to the highest bidder. In this neighborhood, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is correct again, “a terrorist is a terrorist.”
Northern Syria is where American desk bound dolts like John McCain and Hillary Clinton would like to establish a “no-fly” zone.
In effect, clueless politicians of two stripes are asking USAF to fly cover for every known Islamist vice including the financing of fascist ISIS. Both the Islamic State and Ankara hypocrites are benefiting from the black market oil bazaar now flourishing between Syria and Turkey. Murky oil trafficking by Turks is now on a par with the opium trade in Afghanistan, corrosive obscenities that team Kerry/Obama chose to ignore -- or protect.
Ex-deputy chief of CIA, Michael Morell claims that USAF doesn’t bomb the Turkish/ISIS oil cartel because of Obama administration environmental angst. Morell, you may recall, was the Intelligence sycophant who fashioned the Benghazi cover up with Hillary Clinton’s State Department. Morell, now spinning news at CBS, is a walking, talking symptom of the Peter Principle at work in CIA in particular and the Intelligence Community writ large.
Note that the US led air campaign heretofore had not struck the ISIS oil racket or those northbound oil tankers before the Russian Air Force arrived in Syria. The shoot down of Ivan’s SU-24 was probably a not too subtle warning -- or just a spasm of Erdogan/Obama pique.
The two most effective fighting forces in Syria are ISIS and the Kurds. Turkey fears that a Kurdish led victory over ISIS in Syria and Iraq will underwrite the legitimacy of Kurdistan. Alas, Turkey and ISIS interests on the ground are joined by perfidy.
Those Russian airstrikes expose the worst kept secret in Mesopotamia. As with Turkish air strikes against the Kurds, team Obama is content to ignore the ISIS/Ankara axis. Indeed, these days, Turkey is a NATO ally in the same sense that AIDS is the antidote to pneumonia.
By ignoring the Turkish Trojan horse, Washington and Brussels have traded NATO integrity, and an immigrant invasion, for base rights in a neo-Ottoman bordello. If the goal is to defeat ISIS or Islamism, Russia would make a more reliable wartime ally in NATO today than Turkey.
The only question left about the ongoing Brussels/Ankara unholy liaison is who is using whom?
G. Murphy Donovan writes about the politics of national security.