More Turkey Bluster on Syria

Posted: Jun 30, 2012 12:01 AM

Turkey-Syria: "I can confirm there are troops being deployed along the border in Hatay Province (in south central Turkey on the Mediterranean Sea). Turkey is taking precautions after its jet was shot down," a Turkish official said. He said he did not know how many troops or vehicles were being moved but said they included armor and anti-aircraft weapons which are being stationed in three border areas of Hatay Province.

Prime Minister Erdogan said any Syrian military element moving towards the Turkish border and deemed threatening would be declared a military target.

Comment: Erdogan's handling of the shoot down incident amounts to bluster. Sending anti-aircraft weapons to Hatay Province is little more than a first pump. The consultation with NATO was even less significant. His tame responses to date make the Syrian shoot down look justified under the circumstances.

Syria: Today, opposition fighters detonated a bomb in a market near the Palace of Justice in Damascus, killing three civilians, and a second near a police station. Earlier this week, opposition attempted to bomb a television station. On Monday, a bomb detonated at a barracks of the Republican Guard.

Comment: This week's bombing effort is a first in this fight and represents an important benchmark of opposition and government relative strength. It signifies the center is finally weakening and the fighting is evolving.

Three patterns are emerging in Syrian opposition activities that have not been previously present. Bombings are becoming more frequent as a weapon of choice; more bombings are occurring in Damascus; and the fighting is taking on the characteristics of other professional terrorist campaigns during the past ten years. The inference is that the opposition fight is being increasingly waged and taken over by professional Islamist terrorists.

Jordan: According to unconfirmed reports, Jordanian intelligence forces have arrested two Syrian opposition leaders as part of a crackdown on the Syrian opposition. Earlier this month, a number of refugees were denied entry into Jordan at the Queen Alia International Airport due to security concerns. However, the Jordanian air force apparently is encouraging defections.

Comment: Jordanian policy towards Syria looks inconsistent, but the King most likely is taking prudent action to ensure that Syrian opposition agitators do not start trouble in the Kingdom.

Egypt: Armed forces chief Field Marshal Tantawi will keep his post as Defence Minister in the new cabinet to be formed by president-elect Mohamed Mursi. Major General Mohamed Assar said in a rare appearance on a talk show on Wednesday night, "The [new] government will have a defence minister who is head of the supreme council of the armed forces."

Comment: The only significance is that it reinforces the army's determination to try to retain overall control of the civilian political government.

Mali: The Islamists from the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) on 27 June reportedly took control of Gao, after clashes with the Tuareg Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). At least 21 people died in the violence. One news source said the fighters included 100 professional terrorists from the al Qaida affiliate, Ansar Dine.

Comment: The Islamists and pro-al Qaida groups increasingly control the north and will soon be in a position to implement Islamic law, as they announced. The Islamist fighters' coalition does not want to secede, as the Tuaregs do. It wants to conquer all of Mali and convert it into a new al Qaida base.

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