NATO to Ship Patriot Missiles to Turkey
December 4, 2012
In the wake of reports of ever-worsening violence in Syria (including one report of a mortar shell killing 29 children at a school), neighboring Turkey has won approval for the deployment of Patriot anti-missile batteries along the Syria-Turkey border.
The missile defense will come from countries belonging to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO officials announced the agreement, which had been discussed for weeks, after reports surfaced that the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad might be complementing the use of chemical weapons in its struggle against increasingly armed and recognized opposition. The Syrian government repeated its vow of never using such weapons against its citizens.
The civil war has spilled over into Turkey for many months, punctuated by random mortar shells straying over the border, tens of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing north into Turkey, and an escalating war of words and actions that has included a trade of airspace bans following the high-profile LINK stop-and-search of a Russian plan flying over Turkey, bound for Damascus, the Syrian capital.
The Patriot deployment will take a few weeks to complete.
Each side blamed the other for the damage done to a school at a refugee camp outside Damascus. The camp was filled with people who had fled violence elsewhere in the Middle East.
The Patriot announcement came a day after the United Nations announced that it would be removing staff because of security concerns. The European Mission has already removed its staff.
The situation has become much more complex in the nearly two years since unarmed protests began in the streets of a few large Syrian cities. Opposition leaders now command increasingly large groups of armed troops. A new LINK political organization has presented a relatively united opposition front and has been recognized by France, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
Human rights organizations estimate that more than 40,000 people have been killed.