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With Turkey-Syria escalation, worries grow about a tip into war

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But it was Turkey's decision to force a Syrian passenger plane to land in Turkey overnight on Oct. 10 that has analysts using the word "escalation." Turkey confiscated what it claims was illegal military equipment en route from Moscow, though it has yet to make its findings public. Syria accused Turkey of "air piracy," while Russia demanded an explanation.  

Chief of Staff Gen. Necdet Ozel visited the border the day of the plane grounding and said Turkey would respond "with greater force" if Syrian shells continued to land in Turkey. Reuters reported today that two jet fighters had been scrambled after a Syrian helicopter fired on a Syrian border town. The Turkish parliament last week authorized troop deployments beyond Turkey's borders.

The risks are high for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who, not long after the anti-Assad rebellion began, reversed his government's friendly policy toward "brother" Assad to cheerlead for the opposition – figuring that Assad would in short order go the way of removed Arab Spring dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

The Turkish government "assumed this would be a very fast process [and] wanted to have some stake," so began a "proactive involvement in this process. Actually, this calculation turned out to be wrong," says Ersin Kalaycioglu, a political science professor at Sabanci University in Istanbul.

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