June 25th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Can Turkey force U.S. and other NATO countries to attack Syria?

By Adam Levine, CNN

Turkey's leadership took on a much more strident tone on Sunday, calling the downing of its military jet by Syria an "act of aggression" and invoking its right to consult with other NATO nations. That call to meet has raised the question of whether other nations, including the United States, would be compelled to strike back on Turkey's behalf.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has spoken with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the foreign ministers of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and Iran, and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton since the incident, spokesman Selcuk Unal told CNN Saturday.

British Foreign Minister William Hague Sunday called the incident "outrageous" and said he condemned it wholeheartedly."

"The Assad regime should not make the mistake of believing that it can act with impunity. It will be held to account for its behavior," Hague said of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The top American military official, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, called his Turkish counterpart this weekend, a U.S. official told CNN's Barbara Starr.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with her Turkish counterpart, as well. In a statement issued Sunday she called the incident a "brazen and unacceptable act in the strongest possible terms."

NATO members will be meeting this Tuesday in Belgium to discuss the incident, at the request of Turkish officials, according to NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu.

The meeting, or "consultations," is one Turkey called under Article 4 of the NATO treaty, Lungescu said in an e-mail to CNN. Turkey is expected to make a presentation about the plane incident.

"Under Article 4, any ally can request consultations whenever, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened," she wrote.

With the consultations, there is a chance Turkey will demand a collective military response. The notion comes from what is known as Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Washington Treaty, which states that should a member nation - which Turkey is - be attacked, other NATO members are compelled in a collective act of self-defense "such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area."

Article 5 has been invoked just once since NATO's founding, the military response to 9/11.

In this incident, after restrained comments early on, Turkey has issued much angrier comments as details became known. On Sunday, Turkey's foreign minister said the country will act "decisively" within international law and refuted Syria's contention that the plane was shot down because it displayed an "act of aggression."

The plane in the Friday incident was unarmed and sending no hostile signals, said Davutoglu. The plane was testing Turkey's radar systems, Davutoglu said.

"You have to first send a caution, a warning," he said in the first detailed Turkish statement on the international incident. "If the warning doesn't work, you scramble your planes, you send a stronger signal, you force the plane to land. There wasn't enough time to do any of that in the time that our plane was in Syrian airspace."

Davutoglu added the plane was shot down in international air space.

Turkey has invoked Article 4 before, after tensions arose on its border with Iraq.

"This did not lead to the invocation of Article 5," Longescu noted.

A senior American administration official speaking on background because of the sensitivity of the issue, told CNN's Jill Dougherty on Sunday that Turkey's request "is just consultations, and they aren't asking for more than that." The official added that the move does mean Turkey considers Syria's shooting down their plane a threat to Turkey's security.

If NATO was looking for a fight, this would be a good opportuity to invoke Article 5, but there is no appetite for a military conflict with Syria at the moment, several NATO diplomats told CNN's Elise Labott on Sunday.

There are many factors that weigh against a military response. First and foremost, the North Atlantic Council has to agree to it. Also, even if agreed, each member can contribute as they see fit.

"This is an individual obligation on each Ally and each Ally is responsible for determining what it deems necessary in these particular circumstances," according to a description of the charter posted on the NATO website.

The United States and many other countries have been vocally opposed to military intervention and will not be quick to encourage Turkey to press the issue. After Syrian troops shelled refugees on the Turkish side of the border earlier this year, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made clear that the bar was high for Turkey to claim the need for a collective self-defense.

Panetta was asked about invoking Article 5 at a House Armed Services Committee hearing in April.

"I think it's clear that the only way that the United States would get involved militarily is if there's a consensus in the international community to try to do something along those lines. And then obviously ensure that the international community is able to get the - the authorities required in order to make that happen," Panetta said. "They would have to make clear that what is happening there really does truly represent a direct threat to Turkey. And I think at this point, that's probably a stretch."

In her statement Sunday, Clinton said the U.S. would keep in contact with Turkey as the country determines its response. The U.S. will "work with Turkey and other partners to hold the Assad regime accountable," Clinton said.

NATO members agreeing to respond to this incident is "inconceivable," wrote James Joyner on the Atlantic Council blog. Joyner, who said he opposes military intervention in Syria, felt the incident does not rise to the level of such a response.

"The operative word that almost certainly disqualifies this incident from an Article 5 response is 'attack.' Turkey was engaged in aggressive action along its border with Syria during a particularly tense situation and flew into Syrian airspace," Joyner wrote on Friday, "While shooting down the plane was almost certainly an overreaction - the Assad government has said as much - it's hardly an 'attack.'"

Additionally, Joyner said, the article demands response "to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area."

"Given that the incident is already contained - that is, not likely to be followed by any sort of follow-on action by Syria absent further provocation - said security already exists. Indeed, a NATO or Turkish response would make the area more, not less, secure," Joyner maintained.

But Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, may feel compelled to make a decisive response, said Hoover Institution's Fouad Ajami, who explained Erdogan is already under pressure after he turned against Syria's regime and called for the rescue of the Syrian people.

"I think it would be an embarrassment to Prime Minister Erdogan, because he has to make good on the threats that he has made," Ajami said in an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley broadcast on "John King, USA."

Ajami said the shootdown is a worrisome development as it demonstrates Syrian president al-Assad's "sense of abandon."

"Turkey is a NATO member. Turkey is a very, very formidable power. Turkey is four times the size of Syria. The Turkish military is a mighty institution.

"And the idea that this ragtag regime in Damascus would shoot down a Turkish airplane, a jet fighter ... a Phantom - F-4 Phantom plane - tells you that Bashar al-Assad's regime has the sense of invulnerability, that no one is coming to the rescue of the Syrian population," Ajami said on Friday.

But in the end, nobody is expecting the Turks even to ask to invoke Article 5, knowing that NATO would probably not go along, diplomats told CNN on Sunday. The impression was that Turkey itself does not want to ratchet thing up that high, either.

Post by:
Filed under: Middle East • Military • NATO • Syria • Turkey
soundoff (422 Responses)
  1. Abdul Qayoom

    Turkish Establishment are awareness of all situation it is not easy to setup their relation without critic,

    July 11, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Reply

    I suggest that Russia should evaporate Israel to make peace in the middle east

    October 9, 2012 at 6:51 am | Reply
  3. let me reveal more about Personal Loan SBI

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to mention that I have truly enjoyed surfing around your weblog posts. After all I will be subscribing for your rss feed and I'm hoping you write again soon!

    September 19, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Reply
    • Digital Summit

      As the hub of oil and gas in the Middle East, the need for secure networks in Saudi Arabia is of paramount importance. To highlight this need, the country aims to spend over US$ 33 billion on digital security in the period 2007-2018.

      September 27, 2012 at 2:35 am | Reply
      • Digital Summit


        September 27, 2012 at 2:36 am |
  4. best proxies

    Pretty element of content. I just stumbled upon your weblog and in accession capital to assert that I get in fact loved account your blog posts. Anyway I will be subscribing on your augment and even I fulfillment you get admission to consistently quickly.

    September 11, 2012 at 4:26 am | Reply
  5. Bug Out Bag l Fixed Blade Survival Knives l National Survival Center l Survival Book l Survival Food l Survival Gear l Survival Kits l Survival Knives l Survival Tents

    Excellent goods from you, man. I've take into account your stuff previous to and you are just too fantastic. I actually like what you've got here, really like what you are saying and the way in which wherein you say it. You're making it entertaining and you continue to take care of to stay it wise. I can't wait to learn far more from you. That is really a great site.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:24 am | Reply
  6. Harrys Vandenberghc

    I was more than happy to seek out this web-site.I wished to thanks in your time for this excellent learn!! I definitely having fun with each little bit of it and I've you bookmarked to check out new stuff you blog post.

    July 17, 2012 at 10:03 am | Reply
  7. Everett Wallace

    iran is not going to let anyone bother syria and russia has challenged irans authority so be calm russia vs iran. and we are going to supply water to them russians.

    July 4, 2012 at 11:16 am | Reply
  8. Fred Bloggs

    There has never been peace in the islamic world and there never will be.

    The f-4 Phantom was probably an unmanned Drone by the way. The USA has operated the aircraft in this role for missile practice since 1991. Any one heard from the grieving relatives of the two crew?

    July 1, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Reply
  9. ToughEnough1

    Why is it in the US we know more about the conflict in Syria than we know about the war in Afghanistan?

    June 26, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Reply
  10. Mark

    Turkey you can go in and fight... Just leave the US outta it, we have enough to deal with. Your military if fully capable of handling it.

    June 26, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Reply
  11. Holland1990

    Yes we can .

    June 26, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Reply
  12. Pfff


    June 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Reply
  13. Monte

    Haven't we killed enough people? We've been constantly at war since this countries inception. What other country in the world their military in so many other countries? Did you know that bin Laden declared war against? That's right! 9/11 was no sneak attack. He warned us to get our military out of Saudi Arabia and to quit supporting military dictators before he attacked. Do you know why he used civilian aircraft?

    He didn't have aircraft carriers, nor did he have cruise missils.

    Our military-industrial-complex is constantly formenting excuses for us to bomb one country after another. We bombed the H-l out of Vietnam, and what did it get us? We've been killing Afghanis for a decade. Do you think we are any safer? Wake up!

    June 25, 2012 at 9:33 pm | Reply
    • Mister Jones

      @Monte – The short answer is no. We have not killed enough of our enemies, because we still have enemies. We are the "biggest kid on the block", and we attract a lot of attention. Bin Laden killed a lot of innocent people, then got a bunch more innocent people killed as we were looking for him. A lot of not-so-innocent people died along the way, and then one of our operators ventilated him, and then we threw him out with the trash. I hope they dumped it before any poor Wogs had to deal with that. Shellbacks know what I mean.

      Basically, we fight, because people are trying to kill us and our way of life. They die, because we are better than them.

      June 26, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Reply
    • Dart

      That sounds ineresting. Can you cite any main stream articles and publications to support your claims? I would like to read more on what you claim? That would save me hours of research.

      June 26, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Reply
      • Monte

        I believe that you can find bin Laden's Fatwa on the internet. Try a Google search. United States military actions can be found in any library. You can find most of them in the Encyclopedia Brittanica (along with specific bibliographies), Wikipedia, and searches in the Defense Department website.

        June 26, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Brandon

      Bin Laden, as a person, had no authoritiy under international law to declare. Declarations of war are between nations. Most murderers will have ways to justify their acts, Bin Laden is no different. There are times when war is right, and after 9/11 was one of those times. Maybe you should be grateful for all those wars in our history, because most of them have been about freedom. And it's that freedom that gives you the right to make stupid comments.

      June 26, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Reply
  14. moonshyne

    I'd think there's not an ice cubes chance in hell that they will vote to invade Syria. Although I'm sure Turkey doesn't need permission to attack on it's own and I can see that happening. Someone needs to stop Assad, babies and children are being targeted and murdered daily.

    June 25, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Reply
    • Paul

      Asad didnt started the war!Those fridom fighters just have to put down their arms and can go home to their children any time they wish.End of story.

      June 26, 2012 at 5:12 am | Reply
      • Pfff

        That doesn't justify the murder of civilians. Turkey needs to invade and crush the Assad regime under its heel. The Syrian military has zero hope of matching the Turks.

        June 26, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
      • Joe

        I don't think there is a ice cube's chance in hell that Paul is an American. We know how to spell freedom.

        June 26, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
      • moonshyne

        I beg to differ. He chose to attack peaceful protesters. He drew first blood. He needs to go!!

        July 24, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
      • Moose

        That is inaccurate. Assad, if left in power, will not stop killing until he feels like he has been vindicated. If the fighters dropped their weapons now, Assad would go on a rampage trying to seek out each one of them and their families. The death toll would probably quadruple from what it is now.

        June 27, 2012 at 6:18 am |
      • nick

        Assad's army have caught countless times turkish generals teaching the terrorists! and i say terrorists and not syrian freedom fighter because they AIN'T that! when you have 80% of your army full of mercenaries from other countries then you're not a syrian :p not in my book! Same thing happens to lybia! US should change the pattern of they're attacks because it's getting crappy obvious now! (When i say US i don't mean the people ;p but the goverment that it's presidents go to israel to get the OK for the elections... jeez people... you're sure you're americans???)

        October 3, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
1 2

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.