A Turkish diplomatic official, who spoke to Today’s Zaman on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the cancellation of Iranian president’s visit to Turkey, saying it looks as though unexpected item on Ahmadinejad’s agenda has appeared.
Iranian officials at the Embassy in Ankara didn’t return to Today’s Zaman calls, when the newspaper called to obtain information regarding the cancellation of Ahmadinejad’s visit.
Ahmedinejad, whose country has been a staunch supporter of embattled President Bashar al-Assad throughout the 21-month-long uprising against his rule, was scheduled to attend on the occasion of ?eb-i Arus (Night of Reunion) in Konya.
General Hassan Firouzabadi, whose remarks came after the Pentagon announced it will send two batteries of Patriot missiles and 400 troops to Turkey as part of a larger NATO force to protect Turkish territory from potential Syrian missile attacks, called on the Western military alliance to reverse its decision to deploy the defense system, saying such a move risks conflict with Syria.
Firouzabadi said the Patriot deployment was aimed at protecting Israel from Iranian missile attacks and inhibit a potential Russian military defense of Syria. Firouzabadi maintained that Western countries approved the deployment of Patriots on the Syria-Turkey border as they design a world war.
“Each one of these Patriots is a black mark on the world map, and is meant to cause a world war,” Firouzabadi said, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency. “They are making plans for a world war and this is very dangerous for the future of humanity and for the future of Europe itself,” he said, adding Turkey, US and European states should dismantle the Patriots and take them away from the region before a fire breaks out.
Referring to the statements of Firouzabadi, same Turkish official stated that the sole purpose of the patriot system was to defend Turkey’s border. “It doesn’t have an aggressive aim towards Syria or any other country,” said the official.
This is not the first time Firouzabadi was making such statements. In September, Firouzabadi had said that “it will be its turn” if Turkey continues to “help advance the warmongering policies of the United States in Syria,” a statement which was strongly condemned by Turkish officials, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, who called the comments unacceptable and inappropriate and denied that Turkey had meddled in Syrian affairs.
Tehran, a close ally to Syrian regime, has provided Assad with military and political backing for years, and has kept up its strong support for the regime since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011.
Russia, another close ally, has systematically vetoed any resolution which might pave the way for the departure of Assad. However, on Thursday, a top Russian diplomat said Assad is losing control of his country, a statement which was reacted by Moscow. On Friday, Moscow issued a convoluted denial, saying its top envoy for Syria was merely characterizing the opinion of the Syrian opposition rather than stating Russia’s view.
Meanwhile, NATO accused Assad’s forces of firing Scud missiles that landed near to the Turkish border, in explaining why it was sending anti-missile batteries and troops to the bloc’s frontier.
A number of Syrian shells have landed in Turkish territory since the conflict in the Arab state began in March 2011.
The Syrian regime denies firing such long-range, Soviet-built rockets and had no immediate comment on the latest charge.
Admiral James Stavridis, NATO’s military commander, wrote in a blog on Friday: “Over the past few days, a handful of Scud missiles were launched inside Syria, directed by the regime against opposition targets. Several landed fairly close to the Turkish border, which is very worrisome.”
It was not clear how close they came. “Syria is clearly a chaotic and dangerous situation; but we have an absolute obligation to defend the borders of the alliance from any threat emanating from that troubled state,” Stavridis wrote.
In addition to the US Patriot deployment, Germany and the Netherlands also agreed to provide two batteries of the U.S.-built defense systems and send up to 400 German and 360 Dutch troops to man them, bringing the total number of Patriot batteries slated for Turkey to six.
Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta paid a surprise visit on Friday to US troops at ?ncirlik Air Base in Adana as Washington authorized the dispatch of two Patriot batteries and 400 troops to Turkey to shore up its NATO ally’s defense in the face of a possible threat from Syria.
During his brief stop at ?ncirlik, en route from Afghanistan, Panetta told US troops that Turkey might need the Patriots, which are capable of shooting down shorter-range ballistic missiles as well as aircraft.
He said he approved the deployment “so that we can help Turkey have the kind of missile defense it may very well need to deal with the threats coming out of Syria.”
The Pentagon chief did not say how soon the two Patriot batteries will head to Turkey or how long they might stay.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Thursday that the Netherlands, Germany and the US are working closely with Turkey “to ensure that the Patriots are deployed as soon as possible” but he predicted that they would not become operational before the end of January.
Earlier this week in Berlin, German Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Link told lawmakers that current plans call for the missile sites to be stationed at Kahramanmara?, about a 100 kilometers north of Turkey’s border with Syria.
NATO has emphasized that the deployment of Patriots is purely for defensive purposes and is not aimed at establishing a no-fly zone over Syrian territory or any other offensive step.
‘Messing with Turkey means messing with NATO’
Deputy Secretary-General of NATO, Jesper Vahr, stated that the decision to send the batteries to Turkey would be a clear message to Assad. Vahr added that the patriot missiles would be enough to protect the region where they are deployed as well as the residents living in the region. “Besides protecting Turkey, these systems are also a clear message to Syrian regime: Don’t mess with NATO. Messing with Turkey means messing with NATO”, said Vahr.
Speaking to Ak?am daily, Vahr, who was the former Danish ambassador Turkey, stated that US, Germany and Holland has decided to send the missiles and patriots will be send to Turkey within few weeks.
“We do not sit around the map and decide whether the batteries should be deployed to Kahramanmara? or Malatya. Military officials should decide this by taking into consideration the geographical structure, systemic conditions and maximum requirements. Therefore it is a technical issue. But I can tell you that within few weeks the batteries will head to Turkey,” said Vahr.
Vahr maintained that it was not important how many batteries were deployed, adding the important thing was that these batteries should have deterrence quality.
“Syrian regime is very well aware of NATO’s seriousness regarding the patriot issue and that in case of a threat to Turkey’s security will be responded by NATO,” said Vahr.
Vahr also added that Russia was not in a position of decision-making in Patriot issue. “28 allies of NATO took a joint decision regarding the issue and Russia doesn’t have a veto power in this issue,” said Vahr, adding the system would never be used to create a no fly zone in Syria or to create a conflict with Syria.
“The systems will only be used to protect Turkey from any threat coming from Syria and enhance Turkey’s ability of self-defense. There is no any other purpose,” added Vahr.
Patriot’s number may change
Assistant Secretary General of NATO, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, stated that Turkey didn’t mention any number regarding the patriots while summiting its demand, adding as of Jan.3, the number of batteries will be reviewed.
“When Turkey asked for patriot, it didn’t mention any number. Allied countries decided to send six batteries. On Jan.3 Turkey’s need will be evaluated and the number of the batteries will be re-determined,” said Kitarovic.
When asked whether batteries will be deployed to Kürecik, Kitarovic replied that Patriots have their own radar and surveillance systems. “They have nothing to do with Kürecik. Their sole purpose is to prevent any possible middle-range missiles hitting Turkey’s territorial space and threatening human life,” said Kitarovic.