Proposal to deploy Patriot missiles to enforce no-fly zone in Syria has “won advocates in the State Department”

Patriot missile launchers in Diyarbakir, Turkey, March 2003

From Tim Arango, New York Times:  Turkey raised publicly for the first time on Wednesday the idea of stationing Patriot missile batteries along its southern border with Syria. The move would effectively create a no-fly zone that could help safeguard refugees and give rebel fighters a portion of Syrian territory without fear of crippling airstrikes by Syrian forces.

In comments reported in the local news media here, the Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, indicated that Turkey, a member of NATO, planned to request Patriot missiles from the alliance that would provide a defensive shield from incoming munitions from Syria. But the Turkish daily newspaper Milliyet reported that Turkey had agreed with the United States on a plan to use the missiles in an offensive capacity to create safe zones in Syria.

In the weeks before the presidential election, a plan for limited no-fly zones in Syria circulated in Washington policy circles and won advocates in the State Department, a person briefed on the matter said. According to this plan, safe zones would be enforced by Patriot missile batteries under NATO authority and positioned in Turkey and Jordan.

The plan, according to this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential, was presented in recent weeks to Turkey’s leaders as a possible option, although the Obama administration has not signed off on it.

At a briefing in Washington, the State Department’s spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said that Turkey’s request for the missiles was unrelated to establishing safe zones. “On the no-fly zone itself, you know that we’ve been saying for quite a while we continue to study whether that makes sense, how it might work,” she said. . . .

The plan for safe zones would deter Syrian bombers from flying over the areas, which in the north would stretch from the Turkish border town of Kilis into Syria south of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. In the south, the missile batteries would be placed in Jordan and cover areas around the Syrian city of Dara’a. . . .

[The Washington Institute’s Andrew J.] Tabler added that the effort could give the Syrian rebels their “Benghazi pocket,” a reference to the area of eastern Libya that was a base for rebel operations in the Libya uprising.  (photo: NATO)

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