Turkish officials have told Western countries that Turkey might launch a military operation in Syria's north to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad's regime, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported on Monday.
“Turkey informed Britain, France, Italy, Germany and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) leadership of the possibility that it would launch an offensive in … Aleppo, Homs, Hama and Latakia,” As-Seyassah daily quoted an unnamed British officials as saying, according to the Lebanese news website nowlebanon.com.
The report comes amid fears of undesired confrontation between the Turkish and Syrian armies along the border. About 12,000 Syrians have fled their homes in northern towns and have taken refuge on the Turkish side of the border. The Syrian army is reportedly reinforcing troops near the Turkish border to prevent further inflows of refugees towards Turkey. The Turkish military is also reportedly considering reinforcing border troops. Senior Turkish commanders have recently traveled to the border province of Hatay to inspect the border area.
“Turkish officials fear the possibility of the Syrian army committing mistakes on its borders, which might oblige the Turkish army to cross the Syrian border,” the Kuwaiti daily quoted a Lebanese diplomat in Ankara as saying. The Syrian government's brutal crackdown on anti-regime protesters has brought once-close Turkish-Syrian relations to a breaking point, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan describing the Syrian response to protests as “savagery.”
Earlier, a columnist for Lebanese daily al-Akhbar, said to be close to Hezbollah, claimed that Iran had threatened Turkey that if it were to be used as a platform for NATO action against Syria, then Iran would bomb US and NATO bases in Turkey. A columnist for the newspaper also said Iran sees the preservation of the Syrian regime as the preservation of the Iranian and Lebanese governments.