White House says US committed to Turkey's defense
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in Thursday's press briefing that the US is committed to the defense of Turkey against any possible attack by Syria.
Asked by reporters about Washington's response in the event of a Syrian chemical weapons attack on Israel, Turkey or Jordan, Earnest said upholding international norms against the use of chemical weapons is a priority for the US.
“Now, what we also have with Turkey is a defense treaty. So we are committed to the defense of our ally, Turkey. You have heard me and others talk about the United States' commitment to the security of our ally, Israel. The nature of our relationship with Jordan is slightly different, but it is a critically important partner in that region,” Earnest continued.
As a US-led intervention against the Syrian regime seems to be around the corner, Turkey, Israel and Jordan are considered the most likely targets for a chemical attack by the “trapped” Syrian regime.
Turkish military sources say a Syrian attack on Turkey is a remote possibility because it would trigger a collective NATO retaliation against Syria under Article 5 of the alliance's charter, known as the collective defense clause.
"The NATO allies will continue to consult, keep the situation in Syria under close review and continue to assist Turkey," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen tweeted on Wednesday.
A US air base in İncirlik in southern Turkey will probably be used as a logistics base in the event of a military intervention targeting the Syrian regime. The US is expected to lead the widely anticipated intervention, which is reportedly set to begin this week, while France and the UK are also likely to take part.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said earlier this week that Turkey would take part in an international coalition against Syria if the UN Security Council (UNSC), deeply divided due to Chinese and Russian backing for the Bashar al-Assad regime, remains unable to act even after what the Syrian opposition says was a chemical attack by the regime last week in Damascus.
Syria, on the other hand, may respond with the Russian-made Buk-M2E air defense missile systems and modern anti-aircraft systems. The Syrian military also has Russian-made MiG-29 fighters.
In preparation for an imminent military intervention against Syria, the Turkish military has deployed Stinger and I-Hawk missiles along the Syrian border. Reporting from the Kırıkhan district of the border province of Hatay, the private İhlas news agency said that the military has rotated its Stinger and I-Hawk missiles towards Syria.
But these outdated missiles are not fully effective against ballistic missiles and thus cannot be relied upon to defend Turkish airspace in and of themselves.
Ankara has not yet acquired its own long-range air defense system; a contract of $4 billion for such a system is still to be finalized.
As a measure against any ballistic missile threat from Syria, the US, the Netherlands and Germany each sent two Patriot batteries to Turkey after NATO agreed to a Turkish request in December. The Dutch batteries were deployed in Adana, the German batteries in Kahramanmaraş and the US Patriots in the southeastern province of Gaziantep.
Some analysts speculate that the Patriot system would not protect against a chemical attack from Syria.