Turkey has asked the US to deploy two Patriot missile-defense batteries on its southern border to free it to punish any future attacks by Syrian troops backed by Russian air power, Bloomberg reported, citing a senior Turkish official in Ankara.
Over the last three weeks more than a dozen Turkish troops have been killed at observation posts in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib as pro-government forces and their Russian allies seek to crush the last major pocket of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.
Ankara could use F-16 warplanes to strike units loyal to Assad in Idlib if the Patriots were deployed in Hatay on Turkey’s border to provide protection, said the official, who is familiar with Turkey’s policy in Syria.
Turkey has yet to receive a US response to the request, which was relayed last week to James Jeffrey, the US envoy for Syria engagement, the official said, asking not to be identified discussing sensitive information.
While Turkey is requesting the deployment of US-operated Patriots, the two countries have wrangled for years over Turkish requests to buy the missiles. The Trump administration has refused to agree to a deal unless Turkey first scraps an advance Russian missile-defense system it bought last year that Washington considers a threat to NATO capabilities.
Turkey doesn’t see the Patriot request — made to a NATO ally at a difficult time for the country — as requiring any concessions on its part, the official said.
Turkey is trying to halt the Russian-backed Syrian government advance that’s threatening its efforts to establish a zone of control in Idlib and which could unleash an exodus of as many as 2 million refugees toward the Turkish frontier.