Shelling across the Turkish-Syrian border continued for a fourth consecutive day, Saturday, when Turkish artillery retaliated for a mortar shell fired from across the Syrian border that landed in a field in Southern Turkey. This followed by a day another incident, Friday, when shells fired from the Syrian side of the border landed in a farm field some 200 miles from the site of the Oct. 3 incident in the Turkish town of Akcakale, in which five Turkish civilians were killed. Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that Turkey and Syria are "not far" from war, but Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu appeared to climb down from that statement to some degree yesterday when he said that the Turkish parliament's authorization of cross-border military actions was a deterrent "making the necessary warning to prevent a war."
According to the German daily Die Welt of Oct. 4, however, a Turkish opposition figure responded to the open-ended parliamentary resolution by saying, "This is How to Incite a Third World War."
The first incident spurred Turkey to seek consultations in Brussels under Article 4 of the NATO treaty which provides for consultations when any NATO member country believes that its territorial integrity, political independence, or security are under threat. This is different from a declaration under Article 5, which states that an armed attack on one or more members is an attack on all. An Article 5 declaration would certainly mean military action against Syria, and a Russian counteraction fo some sort leading to nuclear confrontation. Therefore the question must be asked: Are the border incidents of recent days intended to trigger such an outcome?
Turkey's response to the border incidents assumes that the Syrian government is responsible for the errant shells, but nobody has, in fact, established that that's the case. Russia Today noted that one of its correspondents is reporting that the shelling is orginating from areas of Syria that are controlled by rebel forces "which prompts some observers to speculate that the rebels are trying to provoke their ally Turkey into a military intervention against the government of Bashar al Assad." Even the New York Times admitted, in its coverage of the Oct. 3 incident, that "it was unclear" who fired the mortar shells. Davutoglu claimed that the Turks have the evidence to prove that it was the Syrian Army, but retired DIA officer Col. Patrick Lang asked, on his blog, Friday: "Taking that as a given for moment, what would be the motivation of the FSA for firing into Turkish territory? Madness? Blood lust? What?"
London-based journalist Afshin Rattansi told RT that these border incidents, and the rhetoric they generate could create World War III. "Turkey is a NATO member. NATO says it will defend any NATO member. If Turkey continues like this, Syria might see itself getting increasingly desperate and relatiate with full force," Rattansi said. "Then it is up to the US and Britain and European NATO allies just to figure out what to do."
What needs to happen instead, Rattansi explained, is a peace conference, but since the UN and the Arab League have both proved useless, "It is up to China and Russia because they are the only people stopping at full-scale war that will only help forces such as Al Qaeda." Russia, in fact, called on Turkey, yesterday, to exercise restraint and to avoid any actions that would icnrease tensions with Syria. "We express the hope that the Turkish side will show restriant and will not take any steps that would lead to further aggravation of the situation," the foreign ministry said in a statement.