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Claude Salhani

Claude Salhani

Claude Salhani is the senior editor with Trend News Agency and is a journalist, author and political analyst based in Baku, specializing in the Middle…

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Turkey-Syria on the Brink of War

Tension between Turkey and Syria has been steadily rising over the past year and a half as cross-border incidents have increased with every passing day drawing the two countries ever so closer to the brink of an all out war, along with all the dangers that accompany such a misadventure.

There is far more at stake than the two countries concerned as a generalized conflagration would almost certainly draw in other nations into the conflict, the outcome of which is unpredictable.  In the event of an open war between Turkey and Syria, Turkey, a full-fledged member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, could call on NATO forces for assistance. And under the NATO charter the alliance would have no choice but to deploy forces alongside Turkish troops. 

For its part, Syria would call on whatever help it could muster from the few remaining friends it can still count on, among them Iran, Russia and China.  In a worst case scenario that could mean that US and Canadian forces, as well as British, Spanish, and several former members of the Warsaw Pact countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania could find themselves facing Iranian and Chinese troops, as well as the Lebanese Shiite militia, Hezbollah, who is as well equipped and armed as any small army, if not all the more so. This past week saw a new major development in the Middle East crisis with Hezbollah deploying an unmanned drone over Israel. According to reports from Israel, the drone was able to fly some 200 miles over Israeli territory before it was finally intercepted by Israeli warplanes. It is also reported that the drone was able to capture and transmit back to the pro-Iranian militia aerial views of some very sensitive Israeli military locations.
If and when it comes to war, in a first step it is unlikely that Russia and the United States would deploy front-line troops, but as the conflict would expand, as it will without a doubt do once this war is ignited, the US will realize that as a pillar of the North Atlantic Alliance it cannot succeed in sitting this conflict out and will have to engage American boots on the ground.

Related Article: Yet Another Attack on Turkish Pipelines

It would be apocalyptic if the situation was allowed to deteriorate to the point where Russian, Chinese and US forces were to face each other, but the risk is there, all the more so that Syria would be quick to call in for help given the state of its military. Over the past 19 months the Syrian armed forces have been severely weakened by the civil war and by large numbers of defections to the ranks of the opposition.

Militarily, the US ranks in 1st place with Russia 2nd and China 3rd. The United Kingdom is in 5th place with Turkey in 6th. Iran is in 12th place, one spot ahead of Germany, who is in 13th place, but two spots behind Israel, in 10th place. Syria ranks in 35th place.

Here is how they compare according to data from the US Library of Congress, the CIA and Global Fire Power:

                                               Syria                                             Turkey

Population:                           22.5 million                                     78.8 million
Personnel fit for service:          9.9 Million                                        35 million
Active military:                  304,000 (2011 est)                                  612,000
Active reserves:                       405,000                                           429,000
Tanks:                                        4,950                                              4,246
APC’s:                                       6,610                                              6,592  
Towed Artillery:                           2,160                                              1,838
Mortars:                                     1,510                                              7,574

Air Power:
Total aircraft:                                 830                                               1,940
Helicopters:                                   208                                                 874     
Serviceable Airports:                      104                                                   99

Total Navy ships:                             19                                                 265


Oil production:                     400,400 bbl/Day                                52,980 bbl/Day                      
Proven reserves:                    2,500,000,000                                   262,200,000   

Related Article: Is a Larger Middle East War Inevitable?


The figures may be somewhat misleading and fail to give an accurate picture of how the forces may be deployed on the ground. Syria, for example, must still maintain large number of troops along the Golan Heights on the Israeli border.  At the same time it has to deploy the bulk of its troops in its major cities where the civil war is eating away at its arsenal and its manpower. Under those circumstances Damascus may well have to call in whatever favors it still holds. This is not an encouraging picture no matter how one looks at it. 

This does not take into account the outcome of Israel being drawn into the conflict, something that Syria and Iran will very likely attempt to do.   

By Claude Salhani for Oilprice.com

Claude Salhani, a specialist in conflict resolution, is an independent journalist, political analyst and author of several books on the region. His latest book, 'Islam Without a Veil,' is published by Potomac Books. He tweets @claudesalhani.

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Leave a comment
  • mayer on October 18 2012 said:
    It's not about oil! Its about Syria,Iran--NOT HAVING a central fractional reserve bank controlled by the Rothschilds. Just like Iraq and Afganistan, Libya before the US invasion of 2003 and Libya last summer.

    WAKE UP! Oil IS a factor but it is a distant second to DEBT BASED MONETARY SYSTEM used to insert a One World Government.
  • Taco Dankers on October 18 2012 said:
    I believe that an war will result in civil war in Turkey.
    The PKK will definitely increase its activities (in fact it is already a civil war), the Alevites will not join the party.
    There where huge pro Assad demonstrations in Turkey last months and anti war demonstrations.
    Hundreds of high ranking Turkeys officers facing prosecution in Turkey.
    Adding the devastating result of an influx of heavy weapons and El Qaeda fighters and you can see a comparison to what happens with Lybia neighbors: Mali and Egypt.
  • Mark chambers on October 18 2012 said:
    I just love how we know he can't stay from from any conflict, always stepping up to war plate.
  • gepay on October 19 2012 said:
    I don't understand what Turkey is getting out of this for being this aggressive against Syria. As far as I know Syria has done nothing against Turkey so as to cause Turkey to wage war against it. The Turkish military is getting freedom to wage war against the PKK in Iraq but I don't understand what Erdogan's party is getting. It is obvious that the regime change for Syria is something the US and Israel wants. I know Erdogan is a Sunni muslim and Bashar Assad is an alewhite type of muslim but there was no big animosity there. France and most of the rest of NATO seem to be for a military solution for the civil war in Syria.
    I believe many elements in the US want to do to Iran what has happened to Iraq and Libya. They want a puppet regime in Syria so that when that happens, Israel can feel safer. That was what the Israeli invasion of Lebanon was about, take out the Hezbollah as a prilim for some action against Iran. It didn't work so plans were set back.
    The other factor as mentioned is the possibility that Russia and China will act as allies of Syria. This is why the no-fly plan for Syria has not been put in place.
  • Taco Dankers on October 20 2012 said:
    Israel will find itself in a situation with suni's in the south and suni's in the north. Hammas was the first that left Assad. They are not sure what the prefer, I think.
  • Roland on October 20 2012 said:
    gepay, I've thought about the same thing.

    More and more we're coming to understand that Turks have been given the green light to deal with the Kurds as they see fit. Since the fall of Saddam and weakening of Iraq, the USA no longer needs the Kurds, so the Kurds got shopped. Business as usual in the world of power-politics.

    But as you ask, what's in it for Erdogan and his party, as distinguishable from the ostensibel Turkish national interest?


    1. Erdogan's bellicosity has nicely pulled the rug out from under the military faction that long governed post-WWI Turkey. How can the generals say him nay? How can they deny his leadership at this sort of time? How can the military faction play their old games with the court system while the nation girds for external conflict? Who can now claim to be the true guardian of Turkey's national honour and integrity? What irony that the civilian government should thus turn the tables on the old junta.

    2. Erdogan can have it both ways with regard to Western commitment. If the Western Bloc stands with Turkey, Erdogan proves that a moderate Islamist government costs Turkey nothing in its relations with the West. If the Western Bloc fails to stand with Turkey, Erdogan proves that the Turkish secularists' affection for the West was badly misplaced. Either way, Erdogan becomes stronger, and his domestic opponents weaker.
  • xolile on October 22 2012 said:
    After Turkyes foltila masacare Erdogan has pressurize Israel but has fail to get support From USA. Amerca has continue to turn down Turkyes request for any sanctions.

    Erdogan has fail to make peace after all failed attempts to punish Israel now he is using hidden agendas to do favor for the Americans by attacking Syrians.

    This is the only way for Erdogan to get back in American good books by buying face.

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