BEIRUT — In the case of its downed fighter jet, Turkey’s bark has proved mightier than its bite.
For days, Turkey has been warning neighboring Syria about the possible consequences of the shooting down of a Turkish fighter plane in what Ankara says was international airspace in the eastern Mediterranean.
On Tuesday, however, in a much-anticipated address to Parliament, Turkish Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan made clear there would be no immediate retaliatory strike or military action against Syria.
The premier did redefine Turkey’s neighbor and former ally as “a clear and imminent threat” and even denounced Syrian President Bashar Assad, once a friend and vacation partner, as a “bloody dictator.”
But Turkey’s response could be seen more as symbolic bluster than decisive action from a regional powerhouse that views itself as an emerging player on the global stage.
“However valuable Turkey’s friendship is, its wrath is just as strong,” Erdogan warned. “Don’t take our common-sense and cautious approach as a sign of passivity.”
His words continued a general narrative of tough words but restrained actions coming from the Turkish side.
The prime minister did unveil robust new rules of engagement that could interpret any Syrian military move toward the two nations’ common borders as a threat meriting a response. But the details were vague, and Turkey’s hesitancy to be dragged into a potential Syrian quagmire seemed evident.
The NATO alliance that includes Turkey also reaffirmed Tuesday that, although deploring Syria’s action, it wants no part of intervention in Syria’s internal bloodletting.
The measured responses again underscore how outside nations have no desire to intervene in Syria, which is now entering its 16th month of a bloody rebellion that has cost more than 10,000 lives.
Despite its outrage at the jet incident, Turkey has continued to maintain its traditional reluctance to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations.