Some 160 vehicles carrying Patriot missile batteries and equipment for 300 Dutch troops began their journey on Monday from the Netherlands to Turkey, where they are expected to arrive on January 22. The missiles will be operational by the end of this month and will remain in Turkey for a year.
The shipment is part of a NATO mission to send Patriot missiles to Turkey in response to a request from Ankara to enhance security along its 560 mile border with Syria. To fulfill the mission, the Netherlands, Germany, and the U.S. are each sending two Patriot missile batteries along with up to 400 troops. Earlier this month, Washington sent a 23-member team to Gaziantep, Turkey, 31 miles north of the border with Syria, to determine the “specific site preparations” that the Turkish and American governments must finish before the Patriot firing batteries from the U.S. can be placed. In addition, this week two Patriot anti-missile systems along with a convoy of German soldiers were transported from Germany to Turkey.
A Patriot missile battery (Photo: Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters)
Syrian allies Iran and Russia oppose the Patriot deployment, arguing it would change the balance of military power in the region. Last month, a commander in Iran warned Turkey against stationing the anti-missile systems near Syria, claiming it would be a recipe for “world war.”
According to NATO, the deployment of anti-missile systems is justified due to the offensive nature of the regime in Damascus. The Syrian military has used Scud-type missiles against the rebels, and although no Scuds have hit Turkey yet, Turkish border towns have been subject to shelling. One such attack in October killed five Turkish civilians. Adding to Ankara’s concerns, Syria is reported to possess a plethora of artillery rockets and medium-range missiles, some of which are capable of carrying chemical warheads.
The civil war in Syria, now 21 months along with a death toll of over 60,000, shows no signs of stopping. This is evident by Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s speech earlier this week — his first public speech in six months — in which he discussed a peace plan that keeps himself in power, pledged to continue the battle “as long as there is one terrorist left”, and blamed the West for bringing terrorists to Syria.