So it was true. Nobody lied to us. Syria intentionally shot down a clearly identified, peaceful Turkish F-4 plane miles away from its shore. Let’s take a minute to absorb this.
I know it won’t be easy for some to accept this hard fact and say, “the Assad regime shot it down.” But the ballistic check of the wreckage confirmed the initial radar readings.
It wasn’t a technical mishap, it wasn’t anti-aircraft gunfire and it wasn’t a radar-guided missile. The Turkish F-4 was shot down by a Russian-made heat-seeking missile fired from Syrian territory. Its traces were found on the wreckage. Period.
No doubt the information on the plane crisis was mishandled. But trying to benefit from the deaths of our pilots to criticize the Justice and Development Party (AKP)'s Syria policy is heinous. We should not be trying to come up with pretexts to justify the clear hostility of a neighbor, just as we shouldn’t be silent about Assad’s crimes against humanity.
Yesterday, a senior-level official spoke about the incessant criticism voiced about the F-4 affair. He said; “It is now proven to have been a missile. Some should be embarrassed. The figures and data we have been announcing from the beginning were questioned. Nobody can monitor our own plane better than we can. It is a myth that the USA monitors everything, knows everything. Only we can best track our plane. Radar can sometimes make mistakes of up to 1.5 miles regarding the location of the attack. Apart from that, all the figures we came up with have not changed.”
Of course, even if the F-4 puzzle is now solved, the Syrian crisis goes on. For Ankara, ending the Syrian instability is a national-security necessity. For that to happen, there is no other option than Assad’s departure. The same official expanded on Turkey’s interests in Syria in language that negates the “pro-Sunni” allegations we have been hearing. He said: “We didn’t decide what is going on. True, we see the developments as a conflict between totalitarianism and democracy. We didn’t make their choice. We didn’t ask the people to come out to streets. That was a Syrian decision.
"Now people have withdrawn their support from the government. Public order has collapsed. The regime that exists today is a threat to Turkey. Why? Unless the current regime disappears, Turkey cannot achieve stability. To protect our own interests, we want Syria to be stable and to restore its public order as soon as possible. This is feasible only through a democratic process. What do people want? A kind of representative government that is only possible through elections. Will this be compatible with our security interests? Yes.”
To be clearer, Turkey wants the US to quickly decide its position on Syria, for the international community to find a solution to the refugee crisis with a buffer or safe zone and the end of the Assad regime. Turkey has no plans to send its soldiers to Syria or to intervene militarily. What Turkey has is a plan to provide for the safety of Syrian refugees — whose numbers now exceed 100,000 — to stay on their own land.
The official continued: “How can we keep the Syrian people without fear on their own land? We have to find a solution. It has to be a space where these people can take safe refuge. How many more can we accept? This is a heavy burden for any country. It is the responsibility of the international community to help keep these people in their own country. In the 21st century, can we allow a regime to use the pretext of ‘non-interference in domestic affairs’ to annihilate civilians with air attacks?”
According to the latest analysis in Ankara, the Syiran regime and the state have collapsed. Rural areas and 70% of the country is outside of government control. Apart from Tartus, Assad does not fully control any major city.
The official added: “We didn’t create this situation. People went out to the streets and it came to this. Syria is not an isolated land. Its borders are open. In a chaotic environment, everybody is determined to take on the others. It is war zone for regional influence and power. This is a grave danger for Turkey. You don’t even know who controls the borders. There is nobody you can talk to. As the war drags on, radical elements including al-Qaeda are coming in and the danger of radicalization of Syria is becoming real. Fragmented opposition forces haven’t yet overcome their command-control issues. The number of refugees is above the absorption capacity of Turkey. They continue to pour in.”
The official said a no-fly zone or a buffer zone was not a political choice but a necessity dictated by field conditions. “If these measures will help the opposition to shorten the war, fine. Can you have a revolution without a leader? Apparently, you can. What we want is the soonest possible end to the chaos,” he concluded.