In a statement from the office of Prime Minister Erdogan, Turkey has said that a military jet that it had reported missing early Friday was shot down by Syrian air defenses. The statement, issued around 6:00 p.m. Eastern U.S. time Friday, said, "As the result of the data provided by our related institutions and the research jointly conducted with Syria, it was understood that our plane has been downed by Syria.... Turkey, after the incident is fully enlightened, will lay forward its attitude and take necessary steps."
Turkish and Syrian rescue forces are jointly searching for the two missing Turkish pilots, both countries reported.
At approximately the same time as the Erdogan statement, a military spokesman issued the following statement, according to the official Syrian Arab News Agency: "At 11:40 AM on 22/6/2012, an unidentified aerial target violated Syrian airspace, coming from the west at a very low altitude and at high speed over territorial waters, so the Syrian anti-air defenses counteracted with anti-aircraft artillery, hitting it directly as it was 1 kilometer away from land, causing it to crash into Syrian territorial waters west of Om al-Tuyour village in Lattakia province, 10 kilometers from the beach."
The Syrian military spokesman also said that the Turkish plane "entered Syrian airspace and was dealt with according to laws observed in such cases."
While this incident threatens to immediately dramatically escalate the Syria crisis, for the past several days, the international media, from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to the Voice of Russia, has been full of detailed accounts of massive flows of arms into armed rebels inside Syria. The invariant in all of the news coverage, is that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are spending tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, providing the weapons, which are being smuggled into Syria from almost all the bordering countries—Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Reports in Time magazine and the Voice of Russia today especially highlight Turkey's role in giving the "green light" to the arms shipments—which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied.
According to recent news stories in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has manpower on the ground in Turkey, facilitating the arms flows to select rebel group, under the guise of trying to prevent the weapons from getting into the hands of radical neo-Salafi and overt al-Qaeda elements. In an interview with Reuters, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta insisted that the United States is not providing weapons to the opposition, but freely acknowledged that other third party countries certainly are arming the anti-Assad forces.
"We made a decision not to provide lethal assistance at this point. I know others have made their own decisions," Panetta said.
Sources close to the Joint Chiefs of Staff have emphasized that the U.S. military brass is adamently opposed to any U.S. involvement militarily in Syria. They have made their views clear to President Obama and the National Security Council, and it will be hard for the President to buck the military on this issue. Any U.S. military engagement in Syria would require a level of resources on a par with the Iraq invasion and occupation of 2003—and right now, any such deployment would destroy the U.S. Armed Forces for a decade or more. In addition, General Dempsey and the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are fully aware that the planned draw down and eventual withdrawal from Afghanistan required close cooperation from Russia, and that the differences between Obama and Putin on Syria could jeopardize many critical areas of military-to-military cooperation. General Makarov is scheduled to visit Washington in mid-July as General Dempsey's personal guest, where they hope to hammer out a resolution of the European ABM deployment and other issues.
Reviewing the Syria escalation today, Lyndon LaRouche insisted that Russia must stand absolutely firm against any kind of regime change. He voiced confidence that Putin understands the game, and will not budge. If Assad goes, LaRouche insisted, there is no ability to prevent the situation in Syria and in neighboring countries from degenerating into uncontrolled chaos. "The only solution is to bring down Obama," he concluded.