Turkey wants US in Patriots bid
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
A woman carrying a child walks past a damaged bus in Aleppo’s Bustan al-Basha district. Syrian forces shelled Douma and Zabadani to the northeast of Damascus and Daraya and Moadamiyet al-Sham to the southwest. REUTERS photoAs technical studies to determine how many Patriot batteries to be deployed in the Turkish territory are continuing, Ankara is insisting on the United States’ involvement to the protection of Turkey alongside with Germany and Netherlands in a bid to increase pressure on the Syrian regime.
Following the approval of NATO foreign ministers to Turkey’s request of augmenting its air defense systems in the face of a potential Syrian aggression, the German government swiftly approved the deployment of two Patriot batteries with a total of 400 soldiers to Turkey yesterday. The Dutch cabinet is expected to announce its approval to send one or two batteries with troops, but both governments need to ensure parliamentary approval before shipping batteries to Turkey.
The NATO mission is expected to include up to six batteries, but an American decision to contribute to the process will be decisive in finalizing the plan. Washington strongly supported Turkey’s demand in the NATO but is still silent on its contribution. Both Turkish and American officials recalled that a decision on this issue is yet to be finalized.
“Talks on this issue are still ongoing between military officials. This is a matter of availability. Our principle is to provide the best coverage,” a Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.
Ankara believes U.S. participation to the protection of Turkey will increase the efficiency of the message NATO delivers to the Syrian regime. The approval NATO issued on Dec. 4 creates a legal base for any ally to defend Turkey, while diplomatic sources discuss the possibility of U.S. involvement at a later stage. Plans to augment Turkey’s air defense system are expected to be finalized next week. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu met separately with foreign ministers from Germany, the Netherlands and the U.S. on the margins of the NATO meeting and thanked them for their support.
‘Syria has a significant missile arsenal’
Germany’s Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters yesterday the overall mission was also expected to include two batteries each from the Netherlands and the U.S. and that NATO Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, or AWACS, will also be involved.
“Syria has a not insignificant ballistic missile capability. A few hundred with a range of some 700 kilometers that could possibly hit a large part of Turkey,” de Maiziere said. “The Syrian government has shown no intention of using these rockets but we want it to remain that way.”
Syria has denounced the NATO plan, but German officials stressed the missiles will only be used to defend Turkish territory and would not be a part of creating a “no-fly zone” over Syrian territory.
“Nobody knows what such a regime is capable of and that is why we are acting protectively here,” Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.
Officials said the Patriots will be programmed so that they can intercept only Syrian weapons that cross into Turkish airspace.
They aren’t allowed to penetrate Syrian territory preemptively. That means they would have no immediate effect on any Syrian government offensives - chemical or conventional - that remain strictly inside the country’s national borders.
Western powers are whipping up fears of a fateful move to the use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war as a “pretext for intervention,” President Bashar al-Assad’s deputy foreign minister said yesterday, according to Reuters.
“Syria stresses again ... that if we had such weapons, they would not be used against its people. We would not commit suicide,” Faisal Maqdad said. “In fact, we fear a conspiracy ... by the United States and some European states, which might have supplied such weapons to terrorist organizations in Syria, in order to claim later that Syria is the one that used these weapons,” Maqdad said. Meanwhile, the U.S. is preparing to designate Jabhat al-Nusra, a Syrian rebel group with alleged ties to al-Qaeda as a foreign terrorist organization, U.S. officials said on Dec. 5, The Associated Press reported.