The Washington Post reports that
BEIRUT — NATO faced being thrust into a new Middle Eastern crisis on Tuesday after warplanes from member state Turkey shot down a Russian jet that Turkish officials said had violated their country’s airspace on the border with Syria.The incident marked a serious escalation that is likely to further strain relations between Russia and the NATO alliance.
Russian officials confirmed that a Russian Su-24 attack aircraft was shot down Tuesday morning but insisted it had not violated Turkey’s airspace.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said one of at least two pilots probably died during the incident, and a marine also was killed by apparent Syrian insurgent fire during a helicopter rescue operation to retrieve the downed airmen.
The downing brings renewed attention to a scenario feared for months by the Pentagon and its partners: a potential conflict arising from overlapping air missions over Syria — with Russia backing the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State.
Turkish officials have accused Russia of repeated airspace violations since it launched airstrikes against Assad’s armed opposition in late September.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had strong words for Turkey, calling the incident a “stab in the back.”
In Washington, President Obama called for de-escalation but said Turkey had the right to defend its airspace.
Turkey’s military said the Russian jet was warned multiple times before it was targeted by two F-16 fighter jets in the border zone in western Syria in mountains not far from the Mediterranean coast.
Turkey called for an emergency NATO session to discuss the incident but has not invoked alliance provisions that would involve other members in its defense.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said after the meeting that NATO allies with intelligence assets near where Turkey shot down the Russian warplane had confirmed Turkey’s version of events and rejected Russia’s claim that its aircraft was flying over Syria and had not crossed into Turkish airspace.
“The information we have from other allies is consistent with what we have got from Turkey,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.
“This is a serious situation” that calls for prudence and de-escalation, Stoltenberg said. “We have to avoid that situations, incidents, accidents spiral out of control.”
A U.S. military spokesman confirmed that Turkish pilots issued 10 notifications to their Russian counterparts warning that they were in Turkish airspace and that the Russians did not respond.
“On the radio . . . we were able to hear everything that was going on,” said Col. Steve Warren, spokesman at the Baghdad headquarters for U.S. forces operating in Iraq and Syria.
Last month, NATO decried a “troubling escalation” by Russian forces in Syria and raised concerns about attack missions within sight of the Western alliance’s borders.
Although Turkey and the United States oppose Assad, their warplanes have avoided the Syrian leader’s military and are instead bombarding the Islamic State militant group, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq. Russian aircraft have primarily hit non-Islamic State rebels, including some groups that are backed by the United States and Turkey.
The fallout could complicate a diplomatic push to bring greater international coordination to the fight against the Islamic State. The radical group has claimed responsibility for the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that killed at least 130, as well as the Oct. 31 downing of a Russian passenger plane over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula that killed all 224 aboard.
French President François Hollande met with Obama in Washington on Tuesday to discuss strategies against the Islamic State and parallel efforts to seek a negotiated end to Syria’s nearly five-year civil war. Hollande is expected to meet later in the week with Putin and other world leaders.
In the Russian resort city of Sochi, Putin said the plane “did not threaten the territory of Turkey” and that it was “pursuing operations” against the Islamic State in mountainous areas north of the Syrian port of Latakia.
“Today’s tragic cases will have significant consequences for the relations between Russia and Turkey,” Putin told reporters after talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, whose nation is part of the U.S.-led coalition.
Some Russian lawmakers have called for retaliation against Turkey by evacuating Russian tourists from popular vacation destinations. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov canceled a scheduled trip to Turkey.
Video footage of the incident showed a warplane on fire before crashing on a hill and two crew members apparently parachuting down. But a video purportedly posted by Syrian rebels appeared to show the body of a Russian pilot.
Sergei Rudskoi, an officer in the Russian army’s General Staff, said a rescue helicopter sent to retrieve the pilots came under heavy fire. “During the operation, one of the helicopters due to gunfire was damaged and forced to make an emergency landing on neutral territory,” Rudskoi said in a briefing with Russian journalists. “One marine was killed.”
Rebel forces released video footage showing an anti-government fighter using a surface-to-surface missile to destroy what appears to be a Russian helicopter. The authenticity of the video could not be confirmed.
Some rebels have been using U.S.-made BGM-71 TOW missiles as part of a covert program coordinated between the United States and its allies.
In early November, the United States deployed additional fighter aircraft to Turkey’s Incirlik air base to help the country protect its airspace.
Friction between Ankara and Moscow has also intensified over alleged Russian airstrikes on Syrian villages dominated by Turkmen, an ethnic minority with cultural ties to Turkey.
Last month, Turkey’s military downed an unmanned aerial vehicle near the border with Syria that military analysts said appeared to be Russian-made. Officials in Moscow denied connection to that downed aircraft and sent a delegation to Turkey to smooth over concerns.
Russia issued a formal apology to Turkey in early October when a jet violated Turkish airspace and Turkish F-16s were scrambled to intercept the plane. The Russians called the mistake “a navigational error.”
Russia has carried out more than 4,000 airstrikes since the beginning of its intervention in Syria, using a force of modern and modified Soviet-era aircraft. Russia has at least 32 fixed-wing aircraft and 16 helicopters at the Khmeimim air base near Latakia, an Assad stronghold on the Mediterranean Sea just 30 miles from the Turkish border.
The Godfather of Conservative Talk Radio, Rush Limbaugh, said the following about this ominous incident…
This is a mess. This is a total mess. And it’s not hard to pinpoint why. But if I were to say it, I would be accused of the same thing I’m accusing all these Drive-Bys of, drawing this comparison. Well, if Obama was providing standard, ordinary, expected American leadership in the last seven years, we wouldn’t even be here. There wouldn’t even be an ISIS. There wouldn’t be an Iran ascending to run the entire Middle East because they wouldn’t have been enabled to create a military weapons program. None of this would have happened it’s safe to say if anybody else had been elected president.
Now, if Hillary had won the Democrat nomination, I don’t know. But we’re dealing with a dangerous set of circumstances. On the one hand we’ve got leadership incompetence, or maybe leadership absence on the part of Obama. It’s just not something he wants to do. And, by the way, don’t get on me. It was Obama who said it last week at that press conference he had in Turkey where he said he’s not into sloganeering and these concepts of American leadership and American victory, winning. Those are things that make him uncomfortable. It’s not what this is really all about.
You can interpret that in any number of ways, but one thing, he doesn’t want to lead, he doesn’t want the US in a leadership or dominant position. And the reasons for that are multi. He doesn’t think that we deserve it. We are not the world’s superpower. We’re illegitimate. You know the drill. What my opinion of Obama’s opinion of the United States is. So a lot of people are understandably worried about what comes next because this is Vladimir Putin who has been attacked, and Putin is interested in winning, and Putin is interested in Russian leadership, and Putin does want to be allied with whoever ends up running the Middle East. Winning and victory and leadership are not concepts that Putin finds nervous or embarrassing. He finds them challenging. So this could go any number of places. We just have to sit and watch, see how it plays out.
In a memo e-mailed the week of March 25th, 2009, in the middle of the World Apology Tour, to Pentagon staff members, the Defense Department’s office of security review proclaimed that “this administration prefers to avoid using the term ‘Long War’ or ‘Global War on Terror’ [GWOT.] Please use ‘Overseas Contingency Operation.’ ”
And so it began.
On Thursday, June 4th, 2009 at the University of Cairo, Obama addressed the Muslim World. Here is an excerpt from the 6:35 a.m. speech:
Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith-based lives upon the persuasion of the mind, heart, and soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it is being challenged in many different ways.
Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of another’s. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld – whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. And fault lines must be closed among Muslims as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.
Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.
Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit – for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.
Scooter believed that by reaching out to the Muslim world through changing and softening our terminology as it pertained to the Jihad declared against the United States by Muslim Extremists, his administration would make huge inroads in America’s relationship with the Islamic World. This action did nothing but encourage our enemies.
As I have written before, Obama’s insistence that Radical Islam does not exist, even now, in the face of the possible beginning of a global Conflict, is either naiveté, stemming from a livelong dhimmitude, or being an intellectual lightweight.
A recent Fox News Poll reveal that the overwhelming majority of Americans view Muslim Terrorist as the number one thing that they are concerned with. Obama’s obsession, Climate Change was down toward the bottom of the list.
And yet, the President of the United States of America, yesterday said that he was going to “strongly rebuke” ISIS by attending the Climate Change summit.
Obama must still be hanging with the Choom Gang, partaking of “herb”, as he did in high school.
God protect us.
Until He Comes,