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PBS: Memo to NATO: Stay Out of Syrian Conflict

Author: Joshua Foust
April 18, 2012

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NATO talks a big game when it comes to global security, but its ability to affect war and peace outside of Europe is limited, writes Joshua Foust for Need to Know on PBS.

Despite this weekend's unanimous U.N. Security Council vote, which authorized a team of observers to Syria to monitor the tentative ceasefire there, there remain many questions about what can actually be done to stop the fighting. Conventional wisdom, prior to Saturday, seemed to resign the international community to doing very little about the bloodshed, thanks to previous Russian and Chinese vetoes over directly intervening in Syria. Some countries, like Saudi Arabia, decided to act unilaterally by sending weapons to the Syrian rebels.

This past week, however, firefights near Syria's border with Turkey have raised the prospect of another way to intervene: NATO. The Syrian military has fired repeatedly at Syrian refugee camps and other emplacements inside the Turkish border. While no one died this time, several Syrians and Turks were injured.

In response, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has suggested he might invoke NATO's Article V in response to the Syrian barrage – attempting to mandate NATO involvement in the conflict. Article V of the Washington Treaty, which governs NATO conduct, states that alliance members will treat an attack against one member as an attack against all members, and respond accordingly – up to and including the use of armed force.

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