The more I read about the history of Hatay, Turkey’s appendage-like province disputed by Syria, the more I am convinced that its status remains a sore point for Ankara. Also, Turkey’s military is in solidarity with Erdogan on the need to hold on to what they see as Turkish ethnic territory, which may extend beyond the country’s current borders into Syria and Iraq.
Assuming the decision-makers in Moscow were at least half-informed about the goings-on in Syria and its environs when they first ordered Russian planes to fire at Assad’s antagonists, doubtless they had at least heard of the Hatay issue and had a hunch that scratching that pimple could quickly turn septic. Not that Putin’s meddling in Syrian hadn’t already driven Erdogan mad, but pressing his Antioch button launched the rockets that brought down the Su.
It seems that Moscow was seeking escalation more than de-escalation, which makes some, but not perfect, sense both both from the domestic-policy and grand-strategy points of view. It cannot make perfect sense, of course, because it is dangerous and reckless, bordering on insane.
Some background links:
- A discussion of Hatay’s status on Daniel Pipes’ blog that started in 2005 and was last updated in 2013.
- The French journalist Ariane Bonzon on the annexation of Hatay to Turkey in 1939. (Note the bare heads and European clothing of the apparently middle- or upper-class women demonstrating in Damascus against the handover of the province to Ankara in 1939.)
- Soner Cagaptay at the Washington Institute writing in April 2013 about the Syrian civil war’s potential impact on Hatay.
- Emma Lundgren Jörum on “Syria’s lost province” (2014).