Based on reported information, the Turkish shoot-down of a Russian SU-24 jet bomber along the Syrian border on Nov. 24 points to a preplanned, contrived incident that had to be authorized by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. While Turkey is a NATO ally, Mr. Erdogan is a very dangerous individual, who is a committed Islamist and has essentially transformed what was once a secular nation into an Islamic state.
The claim that Turkey authorized the shoot-down only after repeated warnings within a period of five minutes is immaterial. Standard, internationally recognized response to a slight incursion into another nation’s airspace is to issue warnings, then escort the penetrating aircraft until it exits restricted airspace. According to a U.S. CENTCOM spokesman, it remains unclear which side of the border the Russian bomber was on.
Immediately after the incident, Turkey sent a letter to NATO headquarters in Brussels, describing the Russian jet incursion of being “less than 2 miles and lasting 17 seconds.” Clearly, there was no direct threat to Turkey’s sovereignty. President Obama’s support for the action of his close friend, Mr. Erdogan, in defending Turkish territory was misplaced.
There is no question that we have a convoluted, multifaceted situation in Syria. Turkey is an ally of the so-called Free Syrian Army rebel opposition group fighting Russia’s ally, President Bashar Assad. Turkey, according to Vladimir Putin, is also an ally of the Islamic State, or ISIS. He bases his claim on the fact that ISIS reportedly smuggles large volumes of oil via known trade routes going almost exclusively through Turkey. Further, it has been known since 2014 that ISIS supply lines originate in Turkey and, according to one German reporter, Tony Cartalucci, hundreds of trader trucks per day transit Turkey to support ISIS.
Since ISIS is a sworn enemy of the United States and Mr. Obama’s latest strategy is to “contain and destroy” ISIS, the question must be raised: Why hasn’t Mr. Obama demanded that Mr. Erdogan cut not only the ISIS supply lines going through Turkey, but also terminate its purchase of black market oil? Another question: After a 16-month U.S. air campaign to destroy ISIS, why haven’t the organization’s oil facilities been destroyed? Why are we now just getting around to destroying ISIS’ oil trucks?
A CENTCOM spokesperson announced with “some pride” that prior to destroying 160 oil trucks recently, U.S. planes dropped leaflets telling the drivers that we were going to strike those oil trucks. We then apparently made several low passes to further scare off the drivers. This “faculty lounge” logic makes absolutely no sense. This type of so-called “humanitarian concern” only will jeopardize our own pilots and aircraft. It is only a matter of time before ISIS uses such prior notification to guide its shoulder-fired missiles, causing the loss of American pilots and aircraft.
This is the same type of illogical thinking that went on in Vietnam. Secretary of State Dean Rusk would pass to the Swiss Embassy in Washington the targets we were going to strike the next day with instructions to pass them to the North Vietnamese through their embassy in Hanoi. The logic was that we hoped North Vietnamese officials would tell their workers to stay home that day, since we didn’t want to inflict civilian casualties.
The North Vietnamese concentrated their surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery around those targets and that’s why our pilots encountered such devastating resistance, which cost the lives of many American pilots and POWs. What Rusk and the Johnson administration did was unconscionable, and they should have been tried for treason. We are seeing this same nonsense today in Iraq and Syria. If the Joint Chiefs of Staff don’t formally object to these type of procedures, then they must be held accountable.
Syria is the site of a traditional Sunni-Shiite conflict. We have the Islamic State with its declared caliphate against all other factions. The United States opposes ISIS but supports the Free Syrian Army. Both Russia and the U.S. are conducting daily airstrikes in support of opposing factions in a relatively confined airspace. To prevent incidents, a memorandum of understanding was fortunately signed on Oct. 27, which outlines rules and procedures for sharing airspace over Syria. The United States signed the memorandum on behalf of its anti-Islamic State coalition, which includes Turkey. Clearly, if Turkey shot down the Russian bomber in Syrian airspace, then this would be a violation of the memorandum, and Turkey must be held accountable.
Of course, the question that needs an answer is why Turkey in this volatile situation would deliberately provoke such an international incident. The answer may be found in the fact that Mr. Erdogan supports the Muslim Brotherhood plan for Islam’s goal of world dominance. The Muslim Brotherhood fully supports the ISIS declaration of an Islamic caliphate — it coincides with al Qaeda’s seven-phase plan for total victory. The plan states that the caliphate would be declared during Phase Five (2013-2016). Phase Six (2016-2020) would be a devastating war that leads to an Islamic victory.
A case can be made that Mr. Erdogan of Turkey provoked this incident in an attempt to bring NATO into a direct conflict with Russia in the confused multifaceted conflict in Syria and Iraq, thereby, moving to the Muslim Brotherhood’s sixth phase of total war. If this, in fact, was the objective, then Mr. Erdogan’s contrived shoot-down failed, and Turkey must be put on notice that its status as a NATO ally is in jeopardy.
• James A. Lyons, a U.S. Navy retired admiral was commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.