The United States and NATO have given their full backing to the illegal Turkish invasion of Syria after 33 Turkish soldiers were killed by Syrian airstrikes. An advisor to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has since threatened that Turkey is ready to go to war with Russia as the conflict in Idlib threatens to spiral out of all control.
The 33 Turkish soldiers were killed during operations in Idlib while embedded with what Moscow has identified as “terrorist forces”, commentators long contending that Turkey was aiding and abetting militants in Syria including various al-Qaeda affiliates and Islamic State. Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said 309 Syrian government soldiers were killed in retaliation.
Idlib is the last stronghold of anti-Syrian forces and dominated in large parts by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stating that his nation “cannot prohibit the Syrian Army from executing the demands written in the UNSC resolutions, which call for an uncompromising fight against terrorism in all its forms,” adding that Turkey had failed to inform them of the presence of its troops in the area before the Syrian strikes.
The United States meanwhile took the opposing view.
“We stand by our Nato ally Turkey and continue to call for an immediate end to this despicable offensive by the Assad regime, Russia and Iranian-backed forces. We are looking at options on how we can best support Turkey in this crisis”US State Department
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg expressed his condolences after the deaths of soldiers, stating that the “dangerous situation must be de-escalated, and we urge an immediate return to the 2018 ceasefire to avoid further worsening of the horrendous humanitarian situation in the region.”
“Turkey is a valued NATO ally, and Turkey is the NATO ally most affected by the terrible conflict in Syria, which has suffered the most terrorist attacks and which hosts millions of refugees… NATO continues to support Turkey with a range of measures including by augmenting its air defences”Jens Stoltenberg
The comments from Stoltenberg followed an emergency meeting requested by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and come despite several members of NATO having previously expressed doubts over the legality of Turkey’s invasion.
In November of 2019, Germany raised concerns over the legality of Operation Peace Spring, with Germany’s Parliamentary Research Service finding that the actions of Turkey are unlawful and could have potential legal consequences for Erdoğan.
In a letter sent to the U.N. Security Council on October 9 of last year, Turkey stated that its actions were “in line with the right of self-defence as outlined in Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations”, however, whether non-state actors can be seen as capable of launching an armed attack that allows a state to invoke the right of self-defence under Article 51 is a point of contention with international lawyers. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has found on three separate occasions that any attack must be attributable to a state for the exercise of self-defence on the territory of that named state to be lawful.
The Parliamentary Research Service also found that Turkey has failed to provide any evidence that an armed attack was underway or being planned against the Turkish state, meaning that the country has failed to justify its actions under the stated Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations.
The danger that the Turkish invasion of Syria would spiral into a “hot war” between Turkey and Russia and eventually involve NATO has always been at the forefront of criticism of Erdoğan’s actions, with voices within the Turkish government now seemingly ready for direct confrontation with Russia.
Mesut Hakki Casin, a member of Turkey’s Security and Foreign Policy Board who advises the President, has stated that his nation “will fight [Russia] again”, noting that Russia has a sizable Muslim population and that she will be “will be shattered from inside” in a confrontation with Turkey.
“We have fought Russia 16 times in the past, and we will fight it again.”Mesut Hakki Casin
Two Russian warships have passed through the Bosphorus Strait and are headed to the Syrian coast, both said to be fully equipped with cruise missiles, while Russian President Vladimir Putin and Erdoğan have spoken on the phone to agree top-level talks to address the crisis.
In an extraordinary Security Council meeting on the situation in Moscow, members “expressed extreme concern over the sharp escalation of the situation in this region of Syria, provoked by terrorist groups that intensified offensive operations against the Syrian army.”
The statement from the Kremlin added that “the tragic cases when Turkish soldiers lost their lives occurred during the terrorists’ offensive operations. It was pointed out that Turkish military personnel was not supposed to be anywhere outside their observation posts in Idlib.”
Main Image: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Making the Rabia Sign | R4BIA.com