NATO agreed on Tuesday to deploy Patriot anti-missile batteries on Turkey's volatile border with Syria. Turkey, a NATO member, requested the firepower as Syrian refugees and rebels flood the area just across its southern border, and fears mount that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is preparing to use chemical weapons against the rebels trying to push him out of power. "To the Turkish people we say: We are determined to defend you and your territory," says NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. "To anyone who would want to attack Turkey we say: Don't even think about it." NATO insists that the Patriot missiles would only be used to shoot down Syrian missiles fired into Turkey — not to establish a no-fly zone to shield rebels from Assad's bombers. That falls short of the help rebels have asked for, but it puts NATO on the front lines for the first time in Syria's 20-month civil war. Could this be a tipping point that finally gives the rebels the upper hand?
This gives the rebels and Turkey the shelter they need: So far, NATO has stayed out of this fight, but Turkey sure hasn't, says Tony Cartalucci at Global Research. It has been harboring Syrian militants, and now, with NATO missiles on its side, Ankara has "assurances of impunity as it continues facilitating increased, overt NATO aggression against Syria." In practice, this is a first step toward establishing "a no-fly zone over northern Syria," providing a "safe haven" for Assad's enemies.
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But it won't deter Assad: The Obama administration says sending Patriots shows we mean business, says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post, but "that is nonsense." Assad "knows a useless gesture when he sees it." He knows that the U.S. lacks the "resolve to aid the Syrian opposition in meaningful ways," such as providing arms or setting up a no-fly zone. If we won't do something so "relatively risk-free," why should Assad fear we'd ever gamble on military intervention?
Patriots might not help the rebels, but they help the Turks: Putting Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries in Turkey isn't supposed to help the rebels, says Jonathan Marcus at BBC News. It's "a gesture of reassurance to Ankara." Syrian artillery shells have already strayed over the border into Turkey, and "Turkey fears that worse could follow." This might make the border area safer for rebels and refugees, too, by dissuading Syrian jets from getting too close, but that's just gravy.
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