Cyprus Mail
CM Regular Columnist

Stop the infighting and get on with the job

By Hemes Solomon

IT WAS the US with her allies until the downing of a Russian passenger flight by Islamic radicals several days before that Friday the 13th Paris massacre of innocent civilians.

Suddenly, France and Russia were inalienably aligned in the fight against terrorism.

French president, Francois Hollande despatched aircraft carrier, Charles de Gaulle to the north eastern Mediterranean from whence French fighters/bombers mercilessly target IS positions in Syria and Iraq, while Russia despatched one of hers to the south east Med for the same reason. Well, not quite the same reason; Russia wants to keep Syrian president, Assad in power. France doesn’t. Nevertheless, Francois Hollande went ahead and joined forces with Russia sans US approval.

Was Francois’ arbitrary reaction to the Paris massacres too hasty – should he have consulted with the White House first? He might well have had his knuckles rapped during his visit to the US last Tuesday. After all, we in the West don’t want Russia running roughshod across the Middle East.

We are control freaks and we want to be seen ridding the planet of Islamic radicals, not leaving Russia to claim the glory – any of it!

And that’s why Turkey downed a Russian fighter which, inadvertently or not, crossed a ‘protruding leg’ of Turkish territory on its way to and from a sortie over Syria.

The US does not want Russia to use Syrian ports for Russian warships. The US does not want Russia to keep arming Assad’s regime. The US certainly doesn’t want Russia superseding allied powers’ tenuous control of the Middle East.

But a United States official calculated the Russian jet was in Turkish airspace for 30 seconds or less. The Turkish government has said that it issued 10 warnings over five minutes, but did not say all of those warnings occurred while the jet was in their airspace.

President Putin said, ‘The shooting of the plane represents a stab in the back by the terrorists’ accomplices. I can’t describe what has happened today (last Tuesday) in any other way. Our plane was downed over Syrian territory by an air-to-air missile from a Turkish F-16 jet.’

The Russian Defence Ministry said “objective monitoring confirmed” the plane was not in Turkish airspace. ‘The plane fell on Syrian territory 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) away from the Turkish border. It was flying 1 kilometre away from the Turkish border when it was attacked. In any case, neither our pilots nor our jet posed any threat to Turkey. That is obvious. They were carrying out an operation fighting against ISIL in Northern Latakia.’ (ISIL is another acronym for ISIS.)

In response to the downing of the jet, Russia has announced that their cruiser, Moskva will go to the shore zone of the Syrian port of Latakia, and the Russian military ‘warns that all the potentially dangerous targets will be destroyed.’

Turkey, along with her allies, vehemently opposes the Assad regime. Russia is backing it. And there’s the rub! Francois overreacted to the Paris massacres. He should have first consulted all of his NATO allies before announcing that ‘France is now at war with IS!’

British Prime Minister, David Cameron is somewhat more cautious, merely offering token assistance from Akrotiri to the French offensive, and Chancellor Merkel has wisely remained schtum after her acceptance of 800,000 Syrian immigrants, among their number many IS fanatics impatient to inflict terrorism Euro-wide.

As a prominent member of NATO, Turkey’s action can but lead to infighting between allies in their ‘combined’ war against IS, who must be overjoyed by Tuesday’s ‘bungle’.

Have French jets overflown Turkish territory? Would British jets? Does the US keep bases in Turkey? Is not Turkey a pawn of the US?

Then who shot down the Russian jet – Turkey or the US?

President Erdogan’s regime might seem to be the same ‘animal’ as Assad’s regime – the former a pawn of the US and the latter one of Russia.

Stop the infighting and get on with the job…As I wrote last week: If world powers want peace in the Middle East and Africa they must combine as a unified single force, remove the obstacles and stop the killing.

But we can’t, can we? There’s too much at stake – pride, envy, greed and wrath, four of the seven deadly sins of which world powers are most definitely guilty.

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