Exclusive: The risk that the multi-sided Syrian war could spark World War III continues as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and U.S. neocons seek an invasion that could kill Russian troops — and possibly escalate the Syrian crisis into a nuclear showdown, amazingly to protect Al Qaeda terrorists, reports Robert Parry.
– Robert Parry
When President Barack Obama took questions from reporters on Tuesday, the one that needed to be asked – but wasn’t – was whether he had forbidden Turkey and Saudi Arabia to invade Syria, because on that question could hinge whether the ugly Syrian civil war could spin off into World War III and possibly a nuclear showdown.
If Turkey (with hundreds of thousands of troops massed near the Syrian border) and Saudi Arabia (with its sophisticated air force) follow through on threats and intervene militarily to save their rebel clients, who include Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, from a powerful Russian-backed Syrian government offensive, then Russia will have to decide what to do to protect its 20,000 or so military personnel inside Syria.
A source close to Russian President Vladimir Putin told me that the Russians have warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Moscow is prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons if necessary to save their troops in the face of a Turkish-Saudi onslaught. Since Turkey is a member of NATO, any such conflict could quickly escalate into a full-scale nuclear confrontation.
Given Erdogan’s megalomania or mental instability and the aggressiveness and inexperience of Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman (defense minister and son of King Salman), the only person who probably can stop a Turkish-Saudi invasion is President Obama. But I’m told that he has been unwilling to flatly prohibit such an intervention, though he has sought to calm Erdogan down and made clear that the U.S. military would not join the invasion.
So far, Erdogan has limited Turkey’s direct military attacks on Syria to cross-border shelling against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces that have seized territory from the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) in northern Syria. Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters, known as YPG, to be terrorists but the U.S. government sees them as valuable allies in the fight against Islamic State terrorists, an Al Qaeda spinoff that controls large swaths of Syria and Iraq.
But Erdogan’s short fuse may have grown shorter on Wednesday when a powerful car bomb killed at least 28 people in Turkey’s capital of Ankara. The bomb apparently targeted a military convoy and Turkish officials cast suspicion on Kurdish militants who also have been under assault from Turkish forces inside Turkey. …