WASHINGTON – Turkey’s bombardment of a Syrian airbase recently recaptured by the Syrian Kurds from Islamic jihadists could lead to a direct confrontation with Russia if Ankara decides to send in troops, according to a new report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
The Turkish military has been lobbing artillery fire at Menagh Air Base, a former Syrian air force facility that had been held by the jihadist group Ahrar ash-Sham, which the Russians consider to be a terrorist group.
According to Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Ahrar ash-Sham has been getting “serious reinforcements from Turkey.” In addition, a senior Russian official told G2 Bulletin that Ahrar ash-Sham, among other Islamic groups in Syria, are terrorists and “need to be killed.”
Menagh Air Base is at a strategic location near Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, which is about to be recaptured by Syrian military forces with the help of the Syrian Kurds, Iran’s proxy group Hezbollah and intense Russian aerial bombardment.
The region in the Aleppo Governorate is of historical interest to Sunni Turkey, which ultimately wants back the area and would rather see it occupied by such Sunni jihadi fighters as the Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian version of al-Qaida or ISIS.
For now, Turkey is bombarding the region from inside Turkey but is threatening to send troops into Kurdish-occupied portion of Syria, which would put Turkey in the crosshairs of Russian aerial attacks, which are protecting the Kurds in the region.
Since last November, when Turkey ordered the shootdown of a Russian Sukhoi-24 jet fighter which penetrated Turkish airspace for 17 seconds, tensions between Ankara and Moscow have been high.
Russia carefully has avoided any military action inside Turkey, since it is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Article 5 of the NATO charter says an attack on one is an attack on all.
However, a Russian official recently told G2 Bulletin that should Turkish troops enter Syria to attack Syrian military forces or Kurdish fighters, they could be subject to Russian aerial attack.
Such an attack, he said, would not constitute a violation of NATO’s Article 5, since it would not be on Turkish soil.