U.S. Sends Patriot Missiles To Turkey
While the situation in Syria continues to devolve, the U.S. is beefing up Turkey’s defenses:
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has signed an order to send two U.S. Patriot missile batteries to Turkey, along with about 400 troops to secure and operate them along the country’s southern border with Syria, he told CBS News on Friday.
The deployment, confirmed by Panetta to CBS Radio News correspondent Cami McCormick aboard a flight from Afghanistan to Turkey, is part of a NATO effort to help shield Turkey from any missiles fired by Syria, and it came as the defense chief said for the first time that previous intelligence indicated the Syrian regime was “very serious about potentially using” chemical weapons.
CBS News correspondent David Martin was told by senior officials last week that monitoring of roughly two dozen bases where President Bashar Assad is believed to have chemical weapons stored indicated the regime had begun preparing the materials, including sarin gas, for use. Satellites had seen trucks moving among the bunkers where the weapons and agents are believed to be stored. U.S. officials told Martin the evidence was strong, but circumstantial — not definitive.
Friday was the first time Panetta himself had addressed the specific intelligence indicating Syria’s chemical weapons preparations, telling McCormick, “we had intelligence they (Syrian forces) were in fact beginning to assemble the weapons for the use of sarin gas.”
“Once you start mixing the material for that, the next step then is ultimately to use those weapons,” said Panetta. “The fact that they took that step is a clear indication that they were very serious about potentially using them.”
With the situation in Syria falling apart by the day, this seems like a wise move.