As the regime in Damascus loses its legitimacy and control over its territory against the Syrian revolutionaries, it is becoming more aggressive and hostile. That the F4 Turkish jet was shot down in international airspace, 13 nautical miles off the coast of Syria is evinced by Turkish and NATO radar records. The jet was flying solo, unarmed and with clear identification. Its momentary entrance into Syrian airspace constitutes no justification for shooting it down. By hitting the jet in international airspace, the Syrian regime has violated international law.
This is an outcome of the regime’s growing sense of insecurity. The Syrian regime has been fighting against its own people for more than a year. It is a brutal and dirty war and a result of the regime’s refusal to recognize people as the only source of political legitimacy. Despite the regime’s widespread propaganda, the Syrian uprising began peacefully and remained peaceful for months until the regime began to kill people en masse.
Turkey used its erstwhile good relations to convince the regime to start a peaceful process of reform and change. The regime refused. Turkey then appealed to other countries and sought to use all available diplomatic channels to put pressure on the regime to stop killing people, attacking cities, arresting and torturing civilians. Again to no avail. In the end, Turkey was forced to cut all diplomatic relations with Syria in September of last year when the number of people the regime killed had reached over 3,000.
It is important to remember these facts to see the larger picture. Presently, the regime is engaged in a brutal survival game, hoping to retain its power by using more violence and killing more people. This move against the tide of history, however, will not work. Trying to provoke Turkey into a war will not be of any use, either. By attacking its own people, the regime has shown it has no respect for basic human rights. By attacking an unarmed, solo-flying Turkish jet, it has proven once more it has no respect for international law, either.
This unlawful and hostile attack will not make the Syrian regime any safer. It will not break Turkey’s resolve to support the Syrian people’s struggle for a free and democratic Syria. It will not dissuade the Syrian opposition from fighting for their lives. And it will not diminish the support of the world community for the Syrian people.
The shooting down of the unarmed Turkish jet in international airspace will not go unpunished. Turkey will respond decisively and in keeping with international law but also with the methods it deems appropriate and at a time of its choosing. Turkey has revised and expanded the rules of engagement of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and will apply them to the new situation in regards to Syria. As Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated on June 26, Turkey will consider any military threat approaching Turkish borders from the Syrian side a military threat and treat it accordingly. Of course, Turkey will not go to war with Syria over this issue. But it reserves all of its rights within the ambit of international law.
This incident shows the extent to which the Syrian regime is becoming more aggressive and hostile not only towards its own people but also towards a country like Turkey, which has always stood by Syria in its most difficult times. It also shows the growing weakness and disintegration of the regime as it tries to maintain power through more and more brutal means.
This will dissuade neither Turkey nor the Syrian people from upholding the principle of justice against a rogue regime.