Missing in Action in Syria: Turkey, Article V and Who Leads?

By Robbin Laird

Earlier this year, Turkey evidenced its concern regarding the threat to its territory from Syria by requesting missile defense support.  NATO responded.



If the Obama Administration wants to take action against Syria over chemical weapons, obviously this most directly affects Turkey.

Without complete Turkish support for actions, including the use of its territory, there is no viable long-term solution in Syria.

Even more importantly, any Syria reaction will quickly involve NATO security and the Article V defense of NATO territory by all members.

So where is the NATO debate and commitment?

As a Turkish columnist put it in 2012:

More than anything else that keeps security analysts working on the Syrian desks in the Turkish capital around the clock with little sleep and many cups of black Turkish coffee

is the “unknown” prospect of a chemical weapons stockpile by the Syrian army and whether or not these weapons can be used by Assad’s forces

or its militia proxies against Turkish interests when the regime is pushed to the limit.

Syria is the only one of Turkey’s neighbors that has not signed the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, a treaty banning chemical weapons production, possession, distribution

and use. Hence, we do not know how comprehensive a chemical arms program Damascus has been running so far, nor do we know the specific nature or capacity

of its stockpile and the exact whereabouts of these weapons.

There are only estimates from the Turkish, Arab and Western intelligence agencies that have been tracking Syrian efforts since the early 1980s.

It is their assessment that Syria has a stockpile of approximately 1,000 tons of chemical weapons including mustard gas and nerve agents such as sarin and VX.

Assad has stored these weapons in some 50 different cites, mostly located in the northern part of the country that is closer to the Turkish border.

For example, there are weapons depots in Hama, Homs, Latakia, al-Safirah, Dumayr and Khan Abu Shamatwere, which are all believed to contain chemical weapons.

So what is Turkey’s position currently, and what are they prepared to do?

Without clear answers and commitments, any precipitous US action might trigger NATO commitments without consultation.

What is the game plan from the White House about the almost inevitable spill over effects of a “limited” US response?

Limits are in the eyes of policy makers, not the stakeholders in the Middle Eastern game.

Recently, Turkish leaders seem to indicate that the Syrian weapons are a threat to be dealt with.  If so, then how do they intend to lead the NATO effort to deal with the threat?

Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has repeated the claims of his country that it has information putting the responsibility for an alleged chemical attack on Syrian PM Bashar Al-Assad.

Davutoglu’s Friday statement comes as the world is watching the US, which has strongly suggested it is imminently launching a military intervention in Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons.

According to Turkey’s top diplomat, Turkish intelligence sources have supplied reliable information regarding the origin of the attack.

“Basing ourselves on evidence given us by intelligence experts, there are no doubts that the regime in Damascus is responsible for the chemical attacks in Syria,” stated Davutoglu.


If so, then how do they intend to lead the NATO effort to deal with the threat?




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