US to send troops, Patriot missiles to Turkey
The Obama administration will send about 400 troops and a couple of batteries of Patriot missiles to Turkey in response to threats from Syria.
The United States gave the go-ahead Friday to deploy Patriot anti-ballistic missiles to Turkey along with enough troops to operate them as the heavily embattled government in neighboring Syria again vehemently denied firing ballistic missiles at rebels.
The United States has accused Damascus of launching Scud-type artillery from the capital at rebels in the country's north. One Washington official said missiles came close to the border of Turkey, a NATO member and staunch U.S. ally.
Syria's government called the accusations "untrue rumors" Friday, according to state news agency SANA. Damascus accused Turkey and its partners of instigating rumors to make the government look bad internationally.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed the order while en route to Turkey to send two Patriot missile batteries and 400 U.S. troops to operate them. The surface-to-air interceptors will help in "dealing with threats that come out of Syria," Panetta said after landing at Incirlik Air Base, a U.S. Air Force installation about 80 miles from Syria's border.
Panetta was unconcerned about possible reactions from Damascus to the Patriot deployment. "We can't spend a lot of time worrying about whether that pisses off Syria," he said, adamant that helping Turkey was the priority.
Panetta did say he was worried what Bashar al-Assad's government may do if it feels it is near collapse.
Descriptions provided to CNN by U.S. officials familiar with the latest intelligence suggest the Syrian leader's problems have accelerated internally as the opposition continues to capture more territory.
"It's at its lowest point yet," said one senior U.S. official with direct knowledge of the latest assessments. "The trend is moving more rapidly than it has in the past."
There was some urgency given to fulfilling Turkey's request as Assad launched some SCUD missiles at the rebels this past week.
Of greater concern than Syria's reaction to the deployment is Russia, who indicated last month when the request was first made that they took a dim view of sending the anti-missile batteries to Turkey. I imagine given that Russia appears to be resigning itself to Assad's eventual fall, that they have tacitly given their approval of the deployment.