Syrian/Russian Airstrikes Kill 34 Turkish Soldiers in Idlib as Erdogan Tries to Invoke Article 4 of NATO; Tulsi Surrogate Debates Bernie Surrogate on Foreign Policy

Yesterday Turkish forces in the Idlib province of Syria, who have been attempting to stave off the defeat of Turkish-backed terrorist “rebels,” were killed as a result of airstrikes that have been officially blamed by Turkey on the Syrian government but may have involved the Russian air force. Newsweek reported the following:

Turkish Hatay province Governor Rahmi Dogan has announced that at least 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in airstrikes blamed on the Syrian government against their positions in the country’s northwestern province of Idlib. The count has risen steadily since an initial announcement of nine dead and more injured, some critically.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based monitor supportive of Syria’s exiled political opposition, first reported a death toll of up to 34 Turkish soldiers earlier Thursday in an area where both the Syrian and Russian air forces were highly active. The monitor did not assign responsibility for the strikes.

Erdogan has been talking tough about how he will spare no effort to stop the Syrian government from re-taking control of its own territory in Idlib, which it is feared would result in hundreds of thousands of additional refugees crossing into Turkey, among other problems. Scott Ritter reported yesterday for RT that Erdogan had consulted with NATO – invoking Article 4 – but seems to have had little success in getting the alliance on board to assist Turkey in Syria:

Turkey engaged NATO in Article 4 consultations, seeking help regarding the crisis in Syria. The meeting produced a statement from NATO condemning the actions of Russia and Syria and advocating for humanitarian assistance, but denying Turkey the assistance it sought.

The situation in Idlib province has reached crisis proportions. A months-long military offensive by the Syrian Army, supported by the Russian Air Force and pro-Iranian militias, had recaptured nearly one-third of the territory occupied by anti-Assad groups funded and armed by Turkey. In response, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dispatched thousands of Turkish soldiers, backed by thousands of pieces of military equipment, including tanks and armored vehicles, into Idlib to bolster his harried allies.

The result has been a disaster for Turkey, which has lost more than 50 soldiers and had scores more wounded due to Syrian air attacks. For its part, Russia has refrained from directly engaging Turkish forces, instead turning its attention to countering Turkish-backed militants. Faced with mounting casualties, Turkey turned to NATO for assistance, invoking Article 4 of the NATO charter, which allows members to request consultations whenever, in their opinion, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened.

Among the foundational principles of the NATO alliance, most observers focus on Article 5, which declares that an attack against one member is an attack against all. However, throughout its 75-year history, Article 5 has been invoked only once – in the aftermath of 9/11 – resulting in joint air and maritime patrols, but no direct military confrontation. The wars that NATO has engaged in militarily, whether in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Libya or Iraq, have all been conducted under Article 4, when NATO made a collective decision to provide assistance in a situation that did not involve a direct military attack on one of its member states….

…The best Turkey could get from its Article 4 consultation, however, was a lukewarm statement by Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, condemning Syria and Russia while encouraging a diplomatic resolution to the fighting in Syria that focused on alleviating the unfolding humanitarian crisis regarding refugees. This is a far cry from the kind of concrete military support, such as the provision of Patriot air defense systems or NATO enforcement of a no-fly zone over Idlib, Turkey was hoping for.

Antiwar.com has also reported that comments out of Washington don’t seem to indicate much interest in direct military assistance to Turkey at this time:

US officials are making clear they aren’t considering joining the war in any real way. Defense Secretary Mark Esper in particular said that “I don’t see any likelihood that we would be back along the border.

In a failed effort to pressure the European nations to support Turkey’s continuing gambit in Syria, Erdogan decided to open up the Turkish border into Europe, namely Bulgaria and Greece, for 72 hours to allow Syrian refugees to head into the EU.

A telephone conversation took place between Erdogan and Putin in which the Kremlin confirmed that a meeting could take place in the near future but no date was given. Other than the airing of views between the two and an agreement to ” step up the corresponding interagency consultations and to examine the possibility of soon holding a meeting at the highest level,” nothing concrete was announced.

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Tulsi surrogate Niko House debates Bernie surrogate Ben Burgis on their respective candidates’ policies. The debate primarily focuses on foreign policy but some domestic policy is touched on as well.

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