NATO begins shipment of Patriot Missiles to Turkey

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | JANUARY 7, 2012

A first group of U.S. soldiers has arrived in Turkey on Friday to work on the deployment of Patriot missile defense system that Turkey had asked NATO for to defend against a supposed imminent Syrian missile attack, said the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) .

The Patriot surface to air missiles are long range defense system used to intercept ballistic missiles as they can reach targets at high altitudes. The 27 U.S. soldiers landed in the city of Gaziantep, in southern part of Turkey, about 50 kilometers from the border with Syria. The soldiers began working to install the missile system, said the state news agency Anadolu.

“These forces will increase Turkish air defense capability and help curb the escalating crisis along the border of the Alliance,” EUCOM said in its statement, referring to the tense situation prevailing in the border between Turkey and Syria. “The deployment is only defensive and will not support a no-fly zone or any offensive operation,” said EUCOM.

Turkey requested help from NATO after several incidents in which missiles and bullets from the Syrian side killed and injured several people in Turkish territory. In addition, the Damascus government has fired ballistic missiles, known as Scud, to targets near the border with Turkey, where Turkish-backed terrorist groups operate with the aid of western nations such as the United States and several European nations.

Syria has spent nearly two years mired in a civil war between rebels and the government, a conflict orchestrated by Western powers that seek to end the presidency of Bashar al-Assad. The civil war already  killed more than 60,000 people.

The worst incident occurred on the Turkish side on 5 October when five women died as a result of an explosion in the city of Akcakale, after an unidentified mortar shell fired from Syria landed near a populated area in Turkey. Since then, Turkey began blaming the Syrian government for any and all attacks.

The NATO ally in the region later deployed tanks along the border and responded with its own artillery repeatedly, but since such actions did not end in a massive build up against Assad, the Turkish president decided to ask NATO for a Patriot missile defense system which analysts see as the first step of the establishment of a no-fly zone over Syria, from where more terrorist attacks will be launched by western-backed rebel groups.

NATO accepted Turkey’s application in December so three member countries will contribute to this deployment. Those countries are the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands, with two batteries of missiles each, in addition to its own military personnel to operate them.

Both the German Army as well as the Dutch Defense Ministry said that their respective Patriot will sail for Turkey on January 8. Each country will send its troops later and expects these batteries to be operational in February.

In total, more than 1,000 soldiers of these three countries will come to Turkey to operate these missiles to be deployed in the provinces of Gaziantep, Adana and Kahramanmaras, all in the south of the country.

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