THE Turkish privately-owned, mass-circulation daily Hurriyet, on 23 November, discussed the issue ‘Are the Patriots Harbingers of a War in Syria?’
It stated: ‘Turkey first became familiar with Patriot batteries during the Gulf War of 1991.
‘Turkey did not enter that war despite then President Turgut Ozal’s aspirations to the contrary. Then Chief of the General Staff Necip Torumtay, Foreign Minister Ali Bozer, and Minister of National Defence Safa Giray resigned their positions over this issue.
‘These three resignations were in truth a political earthquake but Turkey did not spend much time discussing the backstage developments.
‘The purpose of bringing Patriots to Turkey was defence against Iraq’s Soviet-made Scud missiles. However, despite the patriot presence some Scud warheads landed in provinces near the Iraqi border and this caused strong indignation at the time.
‘At the end of the Gulf War, the United States drove Saddam out of Kuwait but it did not touch his government.
‘After the war a no-fly zone was declared in northern Iraq. Operation Poised Hammer was put in place, the border crossing point in Habur was closed, the PKK (Kurdistan People’s Congress, KGK) acquired heavy weapons from the Iraqi army, and regional dynamics changed.
‘Despite insistent calls from the United States, Turkey kept out of the war because of its undeclared “cosmic understanding” with Britain.
‘The first Gulf war ended up being the event that injected the United States into the Middle East.
‘The second coming of the Patriots occurred in the second Gulf war. The United States did not overthrow Saddam in the first war for its own regional interests, but it returned to the region in 2003.
‘This time, it unseated Saddam and settled in the region permanently in the name of maintaining “stability.”
‘As in the first Gulf war, Turkey initially expressed a desire to participate in the second war. However, it got cold feet at the last minute and stayed out of the war.
‘This equivocation resulted in heavy economic losses and strengthened the PKK in both wars.
‘In the first Gulf war, the United States wanted Turkey to open a northern front. In the second war it wanted to use Turkish ports and airports and to open a second front in the north. In both cases, these demands were opposed in Turkey.
‘The 1st March 2003 authorization bill on Iraq created problems that could not be repaired for a long time in Turkish-US relations.
‘The second intervention in Iraq was the war that installed the United States permanently in the Middle East.
‘Now, the deployment of Patriots is on the agenda for the third time.
‘According to NATO statements, “the deployment of Patriot missiles on the Syrian border will strengthen Turkey’s air defence capability to protect its people and territory” and “the missiles will contribute to the reduction of tensions on NATO’s southeastern border.”
‘These statements notwithstanding, Turkey is trying to find its way in the strategic chess game among the United States, Russia, and Britain.
‘Syria has in its possession Russian-made Scud missiles. In the event of a real intervention, the region may turn into a ball of fire, especially if Iran also gets involved.
‘When we look at the past 20 years, we see that Patriots are always brought in when there is a war. In other words, we see a history and string of events that seem to repeat themselves.
‘It seems that an intervention in Syria, which was postponed because of the US elections, will soon gain new impetus.
‘Russia’s unexpected opposition to the deployment of Patriot missiles on Turkey’s border with Syria for defensive purposes suggests that a different policy is being pursued this time.
‘Russia did not object to Patriot missiles in the previous two occasions but it has expressed opposition in the case of Syria.
‘When we put these developments together, we see that there is a desire to reformulate the Sykes-Picot order in the Middle East and that the region may be the scene of new conflicts.
‘It seems that the intervention in Syria will aim to remove Russia and other powers backing it completely from the region. In view of this, Turkey’s behaviour this time may be different from its conduct in the previous two interventions when it stayed out of them.’
Meanwhile, the Syrian Prime Minister, Dr Wael al-Halqi, held discussions on Saturday with a popular group from Dar’a about efforts to consolidate national unity and contain the crisis in the province.
Al-Halqi underlined the importance of this meeting in enhancing communication between the government and all spectrums of Syrian society.
He warned that ‘Syria is facing a global war and a “takfiri” thinking that instigates terrorism and destruction in violation of the essence of Islam and the holy religions’ calls for tolerance, amity and fraternity’.
The Premier added that Syria is making progress in its war against terrorism and the armed terrorist groups thanks to the Armed Forces’ sacrifices and steadfastness.
He stressed that Syria is open to all local, regional and international initiatives to solve the current crisis through dialogue and the rejection of violence and foreign intervention, and those which aim at rebuilding a democratic Syria through elections and ballot boxes.
Premier al-Halqi reviewed the government’s task to provide the Syrian people’s basic needs and requirements, including food, medicine and oil derivatives, despite current circumstances and the economic sanctions.
The Dar’a delegation members stated their rejection of extremism and violence, stressing their commitment to their national stances and their confidence in Syria’s ability to overcome the crisis and restore its security and stability.
The meeting also dealt with services and development issues in Dar’a province, with al-Halqi stressing the government’s interest in following up and solving them according to the priorities.
The Syrian armed forces on Saturday 24 November killed several Al-Qaeda-linked snipers during a clash with the armed terrorist groups in Dar’a city in the Damascus countryside.
An official source told the SANA agency that an army unit clashed with an armed terrorist group that was horrifying citizens and attacking public and private properties near Al-Basil roundabout in the city, killing dangerous Al-Qaeda-linked snipers who holed up in citizens’ houses after displacing them.
The source added that the armed forces seized different sorts of weapons and ammunition, as operations continue to clean the city of the terrorist groups that are wreaking havoc.
A unit of the armed forces clashed with an armed terrorist group in Al-Zabadani town in the Damascus countryside which was attacking places of worship and public properties.
A unit of the armed forces on Saturday also confronted an armed terrorist group which tried to attack the law-reinforcement forces at checkpoint 45 and Al-Frinluq in the Lattakia countryside, inflicting heavy losses on its members.
A SANA reporter also quoted a source in the province as saying that the army killed a number of terrorists and destroyed a car equipped with a machine-gun, killing all the terrorists inside it.
Terrorists opened fire on people and merchants in the vegetable market in Ariha, killing a woman and injuring her son.