My first thought was that Syria shot down the Turkish F-4 because the Turks were probing Syrian air defenses. But then I remembered that the U.S. aircraft patrolling the northern Iraq no-fly zone flew out of Incirlik, Turkey, which meant that they zoomed along the northern Syrian border for years. We must have learned an awful lot about Syrian operations, and shared almost all of it with our Turkish friends, and other members of NATO.
So what more might there be to learn? Probably a probe to see how much deterioration there has been in Syrian defenses in the last year. But that would be a good use of a drone, no? (And are we sure there was a pilot in that F-4?)
The Israelis clearly also know a lot about Syrian defenses.
Meanwhile, Turkish jets conducted air strikes in northern Iraq. Interesting neighborhood.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.