Navigating a Crisis

June 25, 2012

This week Syria faces the consequences of continuing military defections, new EU sanctions, and the consequences of shooting down a Turkish F-4 Phantom jet last Friday. Turkey, with the second largest military in the NATO alliance, has called a meeting of its fellow allies to forge a common response under NATO’s Article IV, which calls for common action but not necessarily a military response. Ankara says it is seeking to respond without ratcheting up regional violence. As Secretary Clinton said, this event “is yet another reflection of the Syrian authorities’ callous disregard for international norms, human life, and peace and security.”

Pressure builds on Syria. The New York Times reports today, “Syria’s isolation deepened on Monday, hit by a rash of high-ranking military defectors who sought refuge in Turkey, new European Union sanctions and plans for an emergency NATO meeting over the Syrian shooting of a Turkish warplane. Seeking to publicly justify the shooting of the plane off the Mediterranean coast last Friday and to profess no ill will toward Turkey despite rising tensions between the neighbors, the Foreign Ministry’s spokesman told reporters in Damascus that the plane had violated Syria’s territory… Turkey says the airplane was over international waters when it was shot down after straying briefly into Syrian airspace. Mr. Makdissi’s comments came a day before emergency talks at NATO headquarters in Brussels over the episode, which has heightened regional tensions springing from the 16-month crackdown on the antigovernment uprising in Syria.” [NY Times, 6/25/12]

NATO convenes to consider response, matching military power with diplomatic and political strength. NSN Senior Advisor Major General Paul Eaton (ret.) put events in historical context: “For over 40 years NATO served diplomatically and militarily to deter and adjudicate conflict along the border between NATO member countries and the Warsaw Pact. Today, with the Warsaw Pact defunct, NATO will help adjudicate a conflict between member Turkey and a periphery state, Syria. The result of this process will inform how NATO will respond in support of Turkey.” Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass describes our NATO commitment:  “When NATO’s founding members signed the North Atlantic Treaty on April 4, 1949, they declared themselves ‘resolved to unite their efforts for collective defense and for the preservation of peace and security.’ The greatest threat to these objectives was a military attack by a hostile power—a prospect that led to the treaty’s most famous provision, Article V, which states, ‘The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.’”

Turkey has chosen not to invoke Article V, but instead call for a collective but not necessarily military response through the North Atlantic Treaty’s Article IV. American University’s James Goldgeier explains: “NATO has to band together in the face of assaults that threaten a member state. In these nonmilitary instances, NATO can invoke Article IV, which reads, ‘The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.’ The important point is not whether a threat is better viewed as falling under Article IV or Article V; what is important is an alliance commitment that a threat to one member will be met collectively.” [Paul Eaton, 6/25/12. Richard Haass and James Goldgeier, CFR, 2010]

U.S. and allies seek unified response – military response not expected now. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today, “We will work with Turkey and other partners to hold the Assad regime accountable.” Reuters reports the Turkish government is seeking an effective response without escalation: “While Turkish newspapers have railed against Assad, [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, not always known for his emotional restraint, has eschewed bellicose rhetoric. The prime minister, who turned against former ally Assad bitterly after he refused his advice to bow to demands for democratic reform, seemed to back away from any suggestion of an armed response. If he sought some kind of retaliation from the NATO meeting set for Tuesday, he could have invoked another article on mutual defence. That he did not, suggests the reaction will remain at least for now, on the diplomatic stage.” As one analyst in Turkey put it, “I don’t think Turkey’s response will be a military one… War is not one of the options. Turkey will act in line with measures taken within NATO.” [Hillary Clinton via CBS News, 6/25/12. Reuters, 6/25/12. Cagri Erhan via Reuters, 6/25/12]

 

What We’re Reading

Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi was declared Egypt’s first democratically elected president.

Tunisia’s president claimed that his country’s extradition of the former Libyan Prime Minister was illegal.

Vladimir Putin is visiting Israel for the first time in seven years.

A fire at a Sufi Muslim shrine sparked clashes in Kashmir.

A Jordanian reporter missing in the Philippines is now considered a captive.

Greece’s new Prime Minister and Finance Minister will both miss the EU summit for health reasons.

Forty Nigerian prisoners escaped in a prison break orchestrated by the Islamist group Boko Haram.

Sudan’s President denied that recent protests were part of an ‘Arab Spring.’

The United States seeks to reinstate various military bases in Southeast Asia.

Paraguay’s former president denounced his removal from office, claiming it was part of a parliamentary coup.

 

Commentary of the Day

Misha Glenny argues that international norms need to be put in place to avoid a dangerous free-for-all in cyberwarfare.

Rep. Adam Smith urges his conservative colleagues to overcome ideology and pursue a comprehensive approach to ensuring national security in the face of budget decisions.

Steven A. Cook compares the role of the military in Egypt after Morsi’s victory to the military’s longtime dominance in Turkey.

 

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