Belatedly, at a sidebar meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Paris climate summit on Monday, President Barack Obama reportedly expressed regret for last week’s killing of a Russian pilot who was shot down by a Turkish air-to-air missile fired by a U.S.-supplied F-16 and the subsequent death of a Russian marine on a search-and-rescue mission, apparently killed by a U.S.-made TOW missile.
But Obama administration officials continued to take the side of Turkey, a NATO “ally” which claims implausibly that it was simply defending its air space and that the Russian pilot of the SU-24 warplane had ignored repeated warnings. According to accounts based on Turkish data, the SU-24 may have strayed over a slice of Turkish territory for 17 seconds. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Facts Back Russia on Turkish Attack.”]
Immediately after the incident on Nov. 24, Obama offered a knee-jerk justification of Turkey’s provocative action which appears to have been a deliberate attack on a Russian warplane to deter continued bombing of Syrian jihadists, including the Islamic State and Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an Islamist, has supported various jihadists as his tip of the spear in his goal to overthrow the secular regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In his first public comments about the Turkish attack, Obama gracelessly asserted Turkey’s right to defend its territory and air space although there was never any indication that the SU-24 – even if it had strayed momentarily into Turkish air space – had any hostile intentions against Turkey. Indeed, Turkey and the United States were well aware that the Russian planes were targeting the Islamic State, Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and other jihadist rebels.
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