Reprinted from Consortium News
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
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President Barack Obama -- always sensitive to neocon criticism that he's "weak" -- continues to edge the world closer to a nuclear confrontation with Russia as he talks tough and tolerates more provocations against Moscow, now including Turkey's intentional shoot-down of a Russian warplane along the Turkish-Syrian border.
Rather than rebuke Turkey, a NATO member, for its reckless behavior -- or express sympathy to the Russians -- Obama instead asserted that "Turkey, like every country, has a right to defend its territory and its airspace."
It was another one of Obama's breathtaking moments of hypocrisy, since he has repeatedly violated the territorial integrity of various countries, including in Syria where he has authorized bombing without the government's permission and has armed rebels fighting to overthrow Syria's secular regime.
Obama's comment on Turkey's right to shoot down planes -- made during a joint press conference with French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday -- was jarring, too, because there was no suggestion that even if the SU-24 jetfighter had strayed briefly into Turkish territory, which the Russians deny, that it was threatening Turkish targets.
Russian President Vladimir Putin angrily called the Turkish attack a "stab in the back delivered by the accomplices of terrorists." He warned of "serious consequences for Russian-Turkish relations."
Further provoking the Russians, Turkish-backed Syrian rebels then killed the two Russian pilots by riddling their bodies with bullets after they parachuted from the doomed plane and were floating toward the ground. Another Russian soldier was killed when a U.S.-supplied TOW missile brought down a Russian helicopter on a search-and-rescue mission, according to reports.
But Obama, during the news conference, seemed more interested in demonstrating his disdain for Putin, referring to him at one point by his last name only, without the usual use of a courtesy title, and demeaning the size of Putin's coalition in helping Syria battle the jihadist rebels.
"We've got a coalition of 65 countries who have been active in pushing back against ISIL for quite some time," Obama said, citing the involvement of countries around the world. "Russia right now is a coalition of two, Iran and Russia, supporting [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad."
However, there have been doubts about the seriousness of Obama's coalition, which includes Sunni countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which have been covertly supporting some of the jihadist elements, including Al Qaeda's Nusra Front and its ally, Ahrar al-Sham.
Syrian rebels, including jihadists fighting with Ahrar al-Sham, have received hundreds of U.S. TOW anti-tank missiles, apparently through Sunni regional powers with what I've been told was Obama's direct approval. The jihadists have celebrated their use of TOWs to kill tank crews of the Syrian army. Yet Obama talks about every country's right to defend its territory.
Obama and the U.S. mainstream media also have pretended that the only terrorists that need to be fought in Syria are those belonging to the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh), but Al Qaeda's Nusra Front and its ally, Ahrar al-Sham, which was founded in part by Al Qaeda veterans, make up the bulk of the Turkish-and-Saudi-backed Army of Conquest which was gaining ground -- with the help of those American TOW missiles -- until Russia intervened with air power at the request of Syrian President Assad in late September.
The SU-24 Shoot-down
As for the circumstances surrounding the Turkish shoot-down of the Russian SU-24, Turkey claimed to have radioed ten warnings over five minutes to the Russian pilots but without getting a response. However, the New York Times reported that a diplomat who attended a NATO meeting in which Turkey laid out its account said "the Russian SU-24 plane was over the Hatay region of Turkey for about 17 seconds when it was struck."
How those two contradictory time frames matched up was not explained. However, if the 17-second time frame is correct, it appears that Turkey intended to shoot down a Russian plane -- whether over its territory or not -- to send a message that it would not permit Russia to continue attacking Turkish-backed rebels in Syria.
After shooting down the plane, Turkey sought an emergency NATO meeting to support its attack. Though some NATO members reportedly consider Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a loose cannon, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared that the allies "stand in solidarity with Turkey."
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