Pentagon Calls for De-Escalation on Turkey-Syria Border

The Pentagon on Thursday sided firmly with its NATO ally Turkey after it conducted retaliatory attacks on Syrian artillery positions, following a formal admission of fault by the Syrian government to the U.N. “We are outraged by the Syrian government’s actions along the Turkish border.  We stand with our Turkish allies.  It is absolutely inappropriate, ...

ADEM ALTAN/AFP/GettyImages
ADEM ALTAN/AFP/GettyImages
ADEM ALTAN/AFP/GettyImages

The Pentagon on Thursday sided firmly with its NATO ally Turkey after it conducted retaliatory attacks on Syrian artillery positions, following a formal admission of fault by the Syrian government to the U.N.

“We are outraged by the Syrian government's actions along the Turkish border.  We stand with our Turkish allies.  It is absolutely inappropriate, wrong and deplorable for the Syrian regime to conduct this kind of activity along the border,” said Pentagon press secretary George Little, in Thursday’s briefing.

Little said the Pentagon supports the “inherent right of self-defense displayed by Turkey.”

The Pentagon on Thursday sided firmly with its NATO ally Turkey after it conducted retaliatory attacks on Syrian artillery positions, following a formal admission of fault by the Syrian government to the U.N.

“We are outraged by the Syrian government’s actions along the Turkish border.  We stand with our Turkish allies.  It is absolutely inappropriate, wrong and deplorable for the Syrian regime to conduct this kind of activity along the border,” said Pentagon press secretary George Little, in Thursday’s briefing.

Little said the Pentagon supports the “inherent right of self-defense displayed by Turkey.”

He also called for quiet along Turkey’s border, saying, “We hope that this doesn’t escalate into a broader conflict.”

Syria apologized for the shelling (sort of, reports Turtle Bay). Still, Turkey’s parliament on Thursday authorized the use of military force against Syria for one year. Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said the measure was meant to be defensive, and not a declaration of war.

Turkey called on NATO late Wednesday to convene its highest body, the North Atlantic Council, which is comprised of the ambassadors of all 28 members.  

Matthias Eichenlaub, a NATO spokesman, told the E-Ring, “Yesterday’s meeting was convened at the request of Turkey within the framework of Article 4 of the Washington Treaty (NATO’s founding document) which states that "the parties will consult whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence, or security of any of the parties is threatened."

Read more about that meeting here.

NATO also issued a harsh statement on Wednesday, saying the attack from Syria, “constitutes a cause of greatest concern for, and is strongly condemned by, all Allies. In the spirit of indivisibility of security and solidarity deriving from the Washington Treaty, the Alliance continues to stand by Turkey and demands the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an Ally, and urges the Syrian regime to put an end to flagrant violations of international law.”

What did not come out of that meeting: any reason for the U.S. military to become further involved. At least, not formally.

Bulent Aliriza, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Turkey Project, said that Turkey feels “exposed” by what the Turkish government considers as insufficient support from the U.S.

But Aliriza sees little chance for a U.S. escalation on Turkey’s behalf.  “No, I doubt it,” he told the E-Ring.  “It’s a political season, the Obama administration is stressing the fact that it’s disengaging from Afghanistan after disengaging from Iraq.” As such, don’t expect the Pentagon to step into the middle of a Turkey-Syrian “shooting match,” he said.

In fact, don’t look for anything different at all, he argued.

“They don’t want to set up a buffer zone, or a no fly zone, without U.N. Security Council authorization. Parallel to that, they’re only engaging in consultations with NATO, and NATO is showing no indications of wanting to move… outside the purview of the U.N.”

“So,” he argued, “we end up in the same situation as before. The Turks continue to support the Syrian free army, host the Syrian national council, and host the refugees without changing the security environment."

Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge. Twitter: @FPBaron

Tag: Turkey

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.