News / Middle East

NATO to Decide on Turkey Missile Defense

Turkish soldiers take up position near the border with Syria, in the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, November 26, 2012.
Turkish soldiers take up position near the border with Syria, in the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, November 26, 2012.
Dorian Jones
NATO is expected to make a decision Tuesday on Turkey's request for the deployment of missile defense batteries along its border with Syria. The decision is seen by Ankara as having both military and diplomatic significance. But such a deployment is strongly opposed by Russia and Iran.

NATO member Turkey has formally asked the alliance to deploy its sophisticated anti-missile Patriot defense system along the Turkish-Syrian border. Diplomatic columnist Semih Idiz for Hurriyet Daily News said the request is the result of growing concern in Ankara that an increasingly desperate Syrian government could target Turkey for its support of Syrian rebel forces.

"I think it's worried that the situation in Syria will get out of hand, and that [Syria's President] Assad may in fact, whether the warhead contains chemical weapons or not, decide to use ballistic missiles," said Idiz. "The request did come from the military wing, it (was) as much a military decision as it was a political decision."

But Ankara’s request for NATO assistance has sent alarm bells ringing among regional powers, namely Iran and Russia. Both Tehran and Moscow strongly criticized the move, accusing Ankara of being provocative.

Some analysts have suggested any deployment of the anti-missile system could be the first step to creating a no-fly zone against the Syrian air force, something Ankara has been calling for. But Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently said any deployment would be purely defensive.

He said no one should try to get a different meaning from the precautions Turkey takes on its border. He said Turkey is obligated to take these measures for defensive purposes only.

A Patriot missile battery, August 12, 2004.A Patriot missile battery, August 12, 2004.
A Patriot missile battery, August 12, 2004.
A Patriot missile battery, August 12, 2004.
It remains unclear how many Patriot missile batteries NATO would deploy if it approves Ankara’s request.

With a 900-kilometer-long border, the missiles would offer only minimal protection to any sustained attack by Damascus, said Meehan Demir, defense expert and Ankara bureau chief for Star news TV channel.  But Demir said any deployment would still be important.

"These missiles are just symbolic," said Demir. "These missiles are just for a kind of message to Syria, that Turkey is here and it's not alone, it is with its NATO allies."

The repercussions of such a deployment by NATO could be considerable, according to Mustafa Kibraoglu, head of the International Relations Department at Istanbul’s Okan University. He said any decision by NATO to deploy the Patriot system would mark a major change in strategic policy by the military alliance and could have consequences beyond Syria.

"With respect to the Middle East, the European allies have always been reluctant so far in terms of showing or displaying solidarity with Turkey," he said.

"But now for the first time, its European allies are not that reluctant, and seemingly even enthusiastic, at least at the governmental level. Behind the enthusiasm might not only be the conflict in Syria, the turmoil in Syria," Kibraoglu added. "Because thinking about some contingencies, that may involve Israel and Iran. Because of Iran's nuclear program and Israel's threats to Iranian nuclear facilities."

Kibraoglu suggested any deployment of NATO missiles in Turkey could last years.  

It would not be the first time NATO has sent Patriot missiles to Turkey. During the first Gulf War, batteries were placed along the Iraqi frontier. But observers said if NATO does agree to Ankara’s latest request, the deployment could herald a significant change in the alliance's strategy towards the region.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
November 27, 2012 3:39 AM
Russia and Iran have no say in the matter. These defensive measures should be in place. Russia and Iran have been providing troops, bullets and bombs to kill 40,000 people. They deserve their faces slapped.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs