October 11, 2012
Syria’s Transport Minister Mahmoud Said accused Turkey of engaging in air piracy Thursday following the forced landing in Ankara by F16s of a Syrian Airbus on Wednesday. Turkish officialdom said the Syrian passenger plane was carrying “illegal cargo” between Moscow and Damascus. Passengers on the plane were reportedly beaten and forced to sign papers.
According to a source in the U.S. government quoted by the Israeli intelligence front DEBKAfile, the move by Turkey is an attempt to declare Syrian airspace unsafe ahead of a move to establish a no-fly zone over the country.
In August, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with her Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, in Istanbul to hammer out the details of a no-fly zone. Clinton said the U.S. and Turkey were considering “all kinds of potential actions” in the effort to overthrow the government in Syria.
Establishing a no-fly zone over Syria will open the door for direct military involvement by the United States and NATO, as it did in Libya where more than 30,000 people died after the United Nations declared a no-fly zone. Analysts say that in order to establish a no-fly zone, Syria’s relatively sophisticated radar and anti-aircraft defenses would need to be taken out.
In March of 2011, the U.S. said Libya’s dilapidated air defenses would need to be targeted before a no-fly zone could be enforced. On March 17, Clinton told NPR a “no-fly zone requires certain actions taken to protect the planes and the pilots, including bombing targets like the Libyan defense system.”
On March 19, following the passage of United Nations Resolution 1973 establishing a no-fly zone, French military forces began targeting the Libyan military. Several days later, on March 25, the NATO Allied Joint Force Command in Naples took command of the no-fly zone over Libya.
According to Boris Dolgov of the Moscow-based Institute for Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the U.S. and NATO intend to replicate the Libyan template in Syria. “This is a clear-cut intention to repeat the Libyan scenario,” Dolgov said after Clinton mentioned the introduction of a no-fly zone over Syria.
Dolgov’s comment was echoed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in February. He said a repeat of the Libyan scenario in Syria would undermine international stability and damage the UN’s foundations, according to The Voice of Russia.
Despite the concerns of the Russians, in September 2011 NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told NPR he viewed the Libya operation as a template for future NATO missions.
“I don’t see that as a negative” he said. “On the contrary, it’s very, very positive that NATO is able to support the United Nations Security Council and help implement its decisions. That adds to the credibility of the U.N., and I’m very pleased to see NATO in that role.”
NATO’s role in Libya was in fact in violation of the United Nations charter and a war crime under the Geneva Conventions. Article 2 of the UN Charter prohibits the use of force against a sovereign state where it has not committed aggression on other states.
“Based on interviews with victims of war crimes as well as with witnesses and Libyan officials in Tripoli, Zawiya, Sibrata, Khoms, Zliten, Misrata, Tawergha and Sirte, the report calls for the investigation of evidence that NATO targeted civilian sites, causing many deaths and injuries. Civilian facilities targeted by NATO bombs and missiles included schools, government buildings, at least one food warehouse, and private homes,” writes Barry Grey.