Turkey owes Syria and the rest of the peace-loving world an explanation: why did the Turkish F-4E Phantom fighter jet shot down Friday violate Syrian airspace?
The fact that the Turkish fighter jet violated the Syrian airspace is very clear.
The NATO-friendly AP said Erdogan himself admitted it:
„Erdogan said the plane went down in the Mediterranean Sea about 8 miles (13 kilometers) away from the Syrian town of Latakia.“
Latakia is almost 50 km far away from the Turkish border. Absolute airspace sovereignty begins 12 nautical miles (22 km; 14 mi) from the baseline of a coastal state.
Syria says the Turkish war plane flew at a very low altitude and at high speed and came as close as one kilometer to Syria’s coast before it was shot down by Syria with anti-aircraft artillery.
A video spreading on Youtube from the beach of Latakia claims to show the Syrian air defense shooting down the Turkish war plane:
There is not to see a lot in the video, but from what is heard, the Syrian air defense is clearly targetting the hostile war plane with artillery shots. A modern Russian Pantsir S1 air defense autocannon, like Syria operates it, has a maximum reach of 4 km. So, if the Turkish war plane would have stayed off coast and didn’t grossly violate Syrian sovereignty it couldn’t have been hit by Syrian anti-aircraft artillery.
Shooting down the Turkish warplane violating it’s sovereignty was a reasonable and proportional response. AP reports that Ilter Turan, a professor of political science at Istanbul’s Bilgi University, told NTV that Syria’s action was clearly „hostile,“ even if it violated its air space.
That is a try of a PR stunt to switch the perpetraitor and victim of the aggression. Turkey is a neighbor clearly behaving hostile to Syria. Turkey hosts command structures of terrorist groups like FSA which violently try to overthrow the Syrian goverment and commit horrible masscres against Syrian military personal and civilians and sabotage acts against Syrian infrastructure. Turkey shelters terrorists who commit acts of murder in Syria from prosecution. The Turkish government wages a propaganda campaign against the Syrian government and publicly calls for the fall of the Syrian government. Though the Turkish government denies it, there are many credible reports stating that Turkey actively participates in arming terrorists active in the Syrian-Turkish border regions. And Turkish senior officials publicly mulled to wage war against Syria. Syria has done nothing of comparison to Turkey – at least not in recent years.
AP reports further that Turan said: „They could have either sent their planes to confront it or force it to land, it is a hostile act by any standard.“ Nothing could be further from truth. There is no other way to stop a fast and low flying fighter jet than to shoot it down with air defense. If the attacking fighter jet flies at a speed of 1800 km per hour that’s one kilometer in two seconds. An fighter jet intrusion 30 km deep into sovereign territory needs one minute forth and one minute back. There is no other way to stop such a hostile intrusion with a fighter jet than to shoot it down.
A fighter pilot is required to know this. If he violates the territory of a state which his government has tensions with he might be shot down. Whoever is in control of such a sophisticated and heavy weapon like a fighter jet is required to know this and behave accordingly. For a fighter pilot violating the sovereign territory of another state there is no such excuse as „I didn’t know where I was.“ He is required to know and keep a distance to be sure. And fighter pilots know it.
So, Turkish prime minister Erdogan is required to answer the question what the mission of his fighter jet was in Syria.
Did his fighter violate Syrian sovereignty to test the Syrian air defense for a future larger attack on Syria?
Did his fighter violate Syrian sovereignty to air drop weapons to terrorists like NATO did it last year to arm terrorists in Libya?
Did his fighter violate Syrian sovereignty to kickstart an otherise unpopular war of aggression against Syria following the scheme of „Operation Oraj„?
The state sponsored violation of the sovereignty of a foreign state with a weapon is an act of war. What the world witnessed yesterday was an unpovoked act of war against Syria committed by Turkey, a crime against international peace. Turkey owes Syria and the rest of the peace-loving world an explanation how for this.
Update: While Turkish PM Erdogan declined to answer questions on why the Turkish fighter broke into Syrian airspace Turkish President Gul came up with a bad joke: he went on the record telling that these F-4 Phantoms fly so fast that Tukish pilots can’t control them and therefore often violate the airspace of other sovereign countries. Well, if that’s the case Turkey should immediately replace it’s jet fighter squadron completely with military planes more reasonable for Turkish pilots. The Cessna 208 Caravan coulld be a suitable model, so that in the future Turkish pilots won’t risk to inadvertently pull off a war anymore just because their military fighter plane is too fast. Let’s wait to see whether Turkey is willing give a more serious answer to the question why the Turkish jet broke into Syrian airspace than that bad presidential joke.
Update 2: The Turkish story takes a turn into absurdity. AP reports that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the jet was on a training flight to test Turkey’s radar capabilities, not spying on Syria. He said the plane mistakenly strayed into Syrian airspace on Friday but was quickly warned to leave by Turkish authorities AP reports. So the Turkish claim is that the Turkish jet was on a mission to test radar capabilities. It was no way testing Syrian radar capabilities to give detailed input for well-known US military planning of attacking Syria, but flew into Syrian airspace „by mistake“. Of course, it was on a mission only to test Turkish radar capabilities, not Syrian. That is already a ridiculous claim. But after that the Turkish story turns from ridicolous into absurdity.
After breaking into Syrian airspace the Turkish jet left the Syrian airspace into international airspace, so the Turkish claim. After flying for 15 minutes deep in international airspace the Turkish fighter came back again close to Syrian coastline, 13 nautical miles off the Syrian coast, just one mile out of Syrian airspace – of course to test radar capabilities in Turkey -, the BBC reports Davutoglu saying on Turkish state TV. And there, in international airspace, one mile off Syrian airspace it was hit by a Syrian weapon, Davutoglu said according to the BBC. So far the Turkish claim is ridicolous but not absurd. But here comes the absurdity: Reuters reports that Turkish Foreign Ministry Selcuk Unal spokesman said on Sunday, that „Turkey knows the coordinates of the wreckage of its plane shot down by Syria, 1,300 meters underwater on the seabed in Syrian waters“. So it means Turkey claims after being hit by Syria 24km off the Syrian coast the Turkish jet made a turn back into Syrian airspace and therefore fell into Syrian waters. That claim makes the whole Turkish story nothing but absurd, an obvious lie, lacking plausibility even in itself.