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Syria: More Bloodshed, No Invasion

Our weekend forecast is looking good: Syria shooting down a Turkish fighter jet appears unlikely to spark an international intervention as the EU and NATO nations urge caution from the Turks:

  • “We will be obviously looking to Turkey to be restrained in its response” —Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief.
  • “Military intervention in Syria is out of the question” —Uri Rosenthal, Dutch foreign minister.

The US and UK used stronger language to condemn Syria, but words are not missiles:

  • “The Assad regime will be held to account for its behavior” —William Hague, UK foreign minister.
  • “The United States condemns this brazen and unacceptable act in the strongest possible terms” —Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State.

These reactions reinforce the Via Meadia view that military action is not forthcoming, yet. There is little enthusiasm among NATO nations for putting boots on the ground in Syria, and the meeting currently underway in Turkey will probably result in strong language but little visible action. The loud barks are intended in part to distract attention from the lack of intention to bite. Turkey and others will probably continue to escalate assistance for Syria’s rebels behind the scenes: the community of deserting soldiers and officers is growing in Turkey, which helps to deepen contacts with rebel forces fighting in Syria.

Public and official opinion in the U.S., the EU, and Turkey is nowhere near ready for war. Expect more reports of bloodshed and fighting, not NATO bombing raids, from Syria over the coming days. With news of high level desertions and rising casualties among Assad’s security forces, the anti-Assad coalition hopes that measures well short of war will bring regime change to Damascus.

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  • thibaud

    Boy, that one was a tough call. Brilliantly played.

    Perhaps VM could apply its insight and expertise to something a bit more, er, challenging?

    What’s the VM call on whether there will be a strike on Iran before year end?

    How about telling us what the Obama admin should do wrt Iran?

  • Michael Koplow

    Agreed. I think this is a really good demonstration of the way international institutions operate to both empower and constrain states. Turkey is able to make a credible threat of force given its NATO membership, but the fact that it has to consult with its alliance partners as well as take the EU into consideration hampers its ability to respond in any way that it sees fit. Contrast this to a country like Israel, which does not have the same constraints but is also more isolated.

  • Ed Snyder

    You’re kidding, right? Or is this a case of wishful thinking? Because the Turks don’t seem to be looking at it that way. From the link:

    ISTANBUL—Turkey raised the stakes in a confrontation over a military jet shot down by Syria on Friday, saying the plane was over international waters when the incident took place—contrary to accounts by Damascus. Ankara also said it plans to formally consult with its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on how to respond.

  • Cunctator

    I hope that Washington reacts to the Turkish request for support with the same approach that Anakara took in 2003 and says “no”. Let the Turks stew in their own problems. We, the West, have nothing to gain by helping Erdogan advance his regional agenda.

    Moreover, a NATO intervention in Syria would be a serious distraction from the main security threat to the West emanating from the MidEast, namely Iran. Taking out the Assad regime will not solve the problem of Iran or its pursuit of nukes, but it will set back the clock in dealing with that issue — and thereby give Tehran more time to acquire nukes. Going after Iran will, however, elimninate an important perhaps the most important support for the Syrian regime.

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