NATO must offer Turkey military support in Syria crisis
Turkey has twice turned to NATO for support in the face of attacks from Syria. But the transatlantic alliance has responded with words rather than deeds. To preserve its credibility in Turkey and the region, NATO should offer radar aircraft and/or rapid reaction forces.
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For example, before the US-led coalition invaded Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 2003, Turkey requested a meeting with its allies, under Article 4 of the NATO treaty, to discuss how the alliance could help Turkey deter an attack from Iraq. Article 4 allows any member to request consultation when, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence, or security is threatened. After what NATO politely described as an “intense debate,” the alliance approved Operation Display Deterrence which deployed “precautionary defensive measures to ensure Turkey’s security.”Skip to next paragraph
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These measures included sending four AWACS radar aircraft and five Patriot air defense batteries, as well as equipment for chemical and biological defense. Over all, NATO members deployed more than 1,000 “technically advanced and highly capable forces” to support Turkey during the Iraq conflict.
NATO made the right call at that time by responding to Turkey’s plea for help by sending tangible aid instead of only diplomatic statements. These actions had a direct and positive impact on Turkey.
Ankara’s then-ambassador to NATO, Ahmet Üzümcü, thanked the alliance for its solidarity: “We are convinced that, through such an active and collective display of deterrence, NATO has not only extended a much-appreciated helping hand to one of its members in her hour of need, but also proven, once again, its credibility and relevance as the cornerstone of collective security in the Euro-Atlantic area.”
Turkey has suffered multiple attacks and loss of life from Syria. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has responded to this crisis with great patience and moderation, but diplomatic sources have made it clear that Turkey is tired of bearing so much of this burden all alone.
It is time for NATO to send proportional support to Turkey during its hour of need. Reinforcing this embattled ally with a small number of AWACS radar aircraft and/or units from the NATO rapid reaction force will strengthen Ankara militarily and politically.
It will also send a powerful message to the Assad regime in Syria and its allies to prevent any further attacks against Turkey. By acting now, NATO can help de-escalate the confrontation along the Turkish-Syrian border and decrease the possibility of Turkey intervening unilaterally in Syria.
Any member of NATO deserves such minimal support from its allies after its military and people have been attacked. The time is now for NATO to offer Turkey more than words of support.