The civil conflict in Syria spilled across the border into Turkey with a bang Wednesday, with mortar shells killing five civilians and prompting the Turks to return fire.
Syria's 18 months of trouble has now also permitted the 2 million Kurds of that country, absent oversight by the Syrian armed forces, to move closer to joining together in an irredentist Kurdish state. The cornerstone of a Kurdish state is already based in northern Iraq, under U.S. military protection since 1991. Kurds are found in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, but none of those countries' governments is prepared to cede land for an independent Kurdish homeland, even though, de facto, northern Iraq is one to some extent already.
Turkey is being drawn increasingly into the Syrian conflict by several factors. Probably the most important is the flow of refugees, estimated in the hundreds of thousands, across the border into Turkey. They present a humanitarian and a political problem. The second is the Turkish government's growing concern about the Kurds. The third, of course, is the spillover of fighting into Turkey, which is now killing Turks.
In response to the gravity of the situation, Turkey has taken two actions. First, its legislature on Thursday authorized the government to deploy forces in Syria to bring matters under control. Doing so would increase the chances of hostilities breaking out between Syrian forces -- government and opposition -- and Turkish troops.
Second, and pertinent to the United States, Turkey called a meeting Wednesday of NATO members on the issue and perhaps to seek to mobilize NATO forces to deal with Syria.
Pressure is growing on a reluctant United States to become more involved militarily. U.S. resources in the conflict have been largely humanitarian, in coordination with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey in support of the disunited Syrian elements opposing the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The heat now increasing on Turkey does not make the U.S. position easier to sustain.