Tag Archives: Turkey

Crimea River – Will the Syrian Conflict spread into the Black Sea?

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Potentially the first time anyone’s been told to stay ON someone’s lawn.

As Russia continues to conduct port visits and provide weapons to Syria amidst the violence, it does so with a preponderance of transits through the Turkish Straits.

The Montreux Convention of 1937 set forth guidelines for warship transit in the Dardanelles Straits, for which, Turkey was established as gatekeeper. Black Sea littoral nations are permitted uncontested warship transit (with a few caveats), yet Turkey is the initial authority in both restricting access to foreign warships and disputing local (riparian) warship transits during times of war.

For thousands of years, both the limits of anti-access and the role of gatekeeper have been contested by the Black Sea littoral nations (primarily Russia and the Ottomans). The authority granted by the Montreux Convetion has, for the most part, gone uncontested as global powers acknowledge the strength in stability that anti-access regulations provide to the region, but the recent conflict in Syria poses a dilemma for regional powers, primarily Turkey. Should Turkey restrict the transit of Russian warships through the Straits that are providing military support and weapons to Syria? With Russia’s only warm-water port based in Syria at Tartus, Russian diplomats would (on the surface) contest any such restriction and claim that any and all transits from the Black Sea to Syria are part of ongoing alliances and in support of established naval facility agreements.

Yet in this situation Turkey has the upper hand thanks to the Montreux Convention, specifically in Article 20:

“In time of war, Turkey being belligerent …the passage of warships shall be left entirely to the discretion of the Turkish Government.”

With the recent downing of a Turkish warplane and various conflicts on the Syrian border, a “time of war” is a reasonable description for Turkey. Any future Turkish political decisions to employ military operations in Syria should solidify Turkey as a “belligerent.” If these events were to unfold and Turkey enacted Article 20 on the Russian Navy, the question remains as to which, if any, international body would attempt to stop Turkey. Although many might assume that the U.N. is the appropriate governing body for such discussions, it is important to recognize that the Montreux Convention has gone virtually unchallenged since inception and still includes outdated references to things such as the League of Nations. This small loophole may be enough for Turkey to disregard any public or diplomatic outrage from Russia and its allies and deny Mediterranean access to the Russian Black Sea Navy.

A.J. “Squared-Away” is a husband, father, and U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer.He has deployed on patrol boats, destroyers, and aircraft carriers to the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, and aboard Iraqi oil terminals. He is currently a student at an advanced military planner course. The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.

The Sublime Porte Takes the Lead

Goose isn’t available, Syria. Meet Turkey.

In a surprise move, Turkey has aggressively taken the lead in what seemed a stalemate over Syria. While Bashir Al-Assad has announced his country is at war, his observation might be more accurate than he is comfortable with. Following Syria’s encore performance of shooting at Turkish F-4’s, Ankara has decided to remind the world that the “sick man of Europe” has been in the gym for a long LONG time.

With unconfirmed reports of Turkish units moving to the Syrian border, Turkey is poised to take the lead on a NATO mission no one has wanted to touch. Turkey taking the reins shows optimism for future potential on NATO’s heart monitor. NATO is not merely a support structure for US operations abroad, but as indicated by Turkey’s actions, an institution by which any member state can take the lead on security issues no matter how feckless the majority.

Turkey has been sitting on the periphery for a long time. The nation many dismissed as a NATO ornament and an EU impossibility has proven itself an economic powerhouse, a political leader, and now a military spearhead. “Everybody should know that Turkey’s wrath is just as strong and devastating as its friendship is valuable,” said President Erdogan. With the speed and rigor of the Turkish response both politically and militarily, perhaps the long-ago sick man of Europe will become its backbone.

Syria downs Turkish F-4 in the Med (UPDATED 26 June)

A Turkish RF-4E

UPDATE 26 JUNE 1400 EST:

Turkey convened a meeting of the North Atlantic Council earlier today where Turkish officials presented their version of events. As expected, the outcome was one of condemnation but no immediate military response. Following the meeting, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed solidarity with Turkey and condemned the shoot-down “in the strongest terms.” NATO also released a statement with unanimous endorsement calling the incident, “another example of the Syrian authorities’ disregard for international norms, peace and security, and human life.”

 

The past two weeks might mark a new low for relations between Turkey and Syria, but it does not mark a turning point in the Syrian conflict itself, which drags on and on.

 

Syria allegedly engaged a second Turkish aircraft. According to a TV statement on Monday by Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Bulent Arinc, a Turkish CASA searching for the wreckage of the F-4 came under fire by, who ceased when warned by the Turkish military. As the wreckage of the craft was reportedly found Sunday, it is unclear when the plane came under fire or what shot at it. Also unknown is if the rescue craft was in fact hit, but it was not brought down.

UPDATE 24 JUNE 1245 EST:

Turkey officially responded Sunday to Friday’s downing of a jet by Syria stating that the jet had been over international airspace at the time. Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu disagreed with earlier Syrian assertions that the plane was not identified as Turkish, and said it had strayed into Syrian airspace but quickly left after it was warned. He also claimed the jet had been on a training mission.

Al-Jazeera quotes Turkish news channels that search and rescue crews have located the aircrafts’ wreckage in Syrian waters. Still no word on the fate of the crew or whether a second Turkish plane had been involved and received damage. Turkey has requested consultation with its NATO allies and will meet in Brussels on Tuesday with the North Atlantic Council to present its findings and formulate a response. As we reported earlier, Turkey is unlikely to invoke Article 5 of NATO’s founding Washington Treaty.

Original post here:

Syria has shot down a Turkish F-4E, according to a statement from the office of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. Al-Jazeera reports Syria has confirmed downing the craft. A statement by the military said, “Our air defences confronted a target that penetrated our air space over our territorial waters pre-afternoon on Friday and shot it down. It turned out to be a Turkish military plane.”

It is unclear which variant of F-4E from Turkey’s inventory has been brought down, but given the nature of its likely mission – reconnaissance – it was probably an RF-4E.  However, the base the patrol flew from, Erhac, is home to the 7th Main Jet Base Group Command and F-4E 2020 Terminator and F-4E Phantom II variants. This does not however preclude forward basing of RF-4Es from their normal home at Eskisehir, far to the northwest, in order to cut down flying time to the Syrian border. As of 2010, Turkey had 161 F/RF-4Es. The RF-4Es were first delivered in 1978, but began a modernization project in 2009. 

According to the BBC, PM Erdogan’s statement said a search for the two crew members of the plane was underway and involved Turkish and Syrian coast guard vessels. PM Erdogan told reporters “Regarding our pilots, we do not have any information, but at the moment four of our gunboats and some Syrian gunboats are carrying out a joint search there.”

Courtesy BBC

The Turkish military said it lost radio contact with the F-4 at 1158 (0858 GMT) on Friday while it was flying over Hatay, about 90 minutes after it took off from Erhac airbase in the province of Malatya, to the north-west.

 

The private news channel, NTV, later cited unnamed military sources as saying that the plane had crashed off Hatay’s Mediterranean coast, in Syrian territorial waters, but that there had been no border violation.

 

Witnesses in the Syrian coastal city of Latakia meanwhile told BBC Arabic that Syrian air defences had shot down an unidentified aircraft near the town of Ras al-Basit.

A second Turkish plane may also have been damaged. A TV station in Lebanon reported Syrian security sources stating their forces shot down one plane and hit another in Syrian airspace. The truth of the latter claim will perhaps be hard to verify, as the station is controlled by Hezbollah, an ally of the Assad regime, but it is very likely the downed F-4E was flying its mission with another.

How Turkey responds remains to be seen. PM Erdogan’s statement, released after a 2-hour emergency meeting, said Turkey would respond decisively once all the circumstances were established. Turkey, a NATO member, might attempt to invoke Article 5 of the NATO treaty, commonly known as the collective self-defense article, but the terms of the treaty state such an attack must occur in Europe or North America, e.g. not above Syria, giving other NATO members a convenient out. In any case, based on initial public Turkish reaction to the incident, PM Erdogan’s government will likely not have to take such a drastic step. According to “InAnatalya,” a Daily Kos Turkish contributor, “Reaction has been quiet. It seems to be understood by the people in Turkey that the F4 was in Syrian airspace.”

There have also been conflicting reports over whether Syria had earlier apologized for the incident.