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October 14, 2012, Sunday

Global chess game in Syria

Turkey's forcing of a Syrian passenger plane, traveling from Moscow to war-torn Damascus, to land and submit to a search at an Ankara airport on Wednesday after receiving intelligence that it was transporting weapons through Turkish airspace has been the number one topic for discussion in Turkey for days. The Turkish media, already debating whether Turkey is being dragged into a war in Syria, now regards the interception of the Syrian plane as a new high in tensions between Turkey and Russia, as well as Syria.

The Star's Sedat Laçiner says the intelligence on the Syrian plane was timed perfectly. He explains: Russia has long been accusing the US and its allies of providing Syrian opposition groups with arms and hence exacerbating the ongoing civil war in Syria. On the other hand, Russia has been accused of selling arms to the Syrian regime, which it has denied. And Turkey finding banned non-civilian materials on the intercepted airplane traveling from Moscow to Damascus was to Russia's disadvantage, as it harmed the legitimacy of Russia's stance on the Syrian issue. This way, Washington could finally prove that Russia was supporting the Syrian regime by sending arms on civilian planes. In brief, a global competition, or rather a global chess game, over the Middle Eastern country Syria is going on, and the intercepted plane is just a pawn in this game, he argues.

Moreover, the columnist notes, the intelligence regarding the plane was given to Turkey at a very strange time, as it was the day we learned that Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Turkey was to be delayed, and the day we read in newspapers that Russia had signed arms deals worth $4.2 billion with Iraq, making it the largest weapons supplier to the Middle Eastern country after the US. In this sense, the provider of the intelligence is critical for Turkey.

Meanwhile, the Star's Fehmi Koru writes about the recent claims that if Turkey goes to war with Syria it will mean that Turkey has become the subcontractor for the US. Koru says he is against the prospect of entering into a war with Syria, but that if Turkey does so, it won't happen because the US wants it to. As for the reason behind this, he argues that when the US decided to invade and occupy Iraq in 2003 and sought Turkey's support for it, a massive campaign was launched through the media to put pressure on those who opposed the US occupation. Thus, if Washington really wanted Turkey to take action in Syria, it would exert pressure such as it exerted before the March 1, 2003 motion to allow American troops to invade Iraq from Turkish territory, Koru argues.

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