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Turkey Reinforces Syria Border as Erdogan Backs U.S. Attack

Updated on
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish Prime Minister Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends the first working meeting of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg on Sept. 5, 2013. Photographer: Vladimir Astapkovich/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images

Turkey deployed tanks and anti-aircraft guns to reinforce its military units on the Syrian border, as the U.S. considers strikes against Syria.

Convoys carrying tanks and rocket-launchers headed to border areas in Hatay, Gaziantep and Sanliurfa provinces today and yesterday, according to Hurriyet newspaper and Anatolia news agency. Tanks, missile launchers and anti-aircraft guns on hilltops near the border town of Kilis were aimed Syria, state-run TRT television said. F-16s, tanker and cargo planes as well as at least one drone landed at southern Incirlik Air Base, Anatolia said.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has expressed a willingness to join any international coalition against Syria, yesterday vowed to respond to any attack from its southern neighbor. He spoke after Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad was cited by the Wall Street Journal as saying that Syria will strike U.S. allies Israel, Jordan and Turkey if the Obama administration attacks his country over its alleged use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21.

“Our country is ready for such a situation,” Erdogan said, according to Hurriyet. “Is Syria ready for this? I can’t know.”

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is prepared to defend Turkey against a possible spillover of the civil war, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Sept. 2.

‘Great Panic’

Turkey, which has sided with the rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad, has a border with Syria that stretches for more than 900 kilometers (559 miles). Six Patriot missile batteries, supplied by fellow NATO members, have been stationed in the country for eight months to help defend against a missile attack from Syria.

Syrian forces shot down a Turkish reconnaissance plane in the east Mediterranean in June 2012, and errant Syrian shells or bullets from across the border have killed or injured several Turks.

Turkish financial markets have extended losses since the chemical attack prompted calls for a Western military response. The benchmark stock index is down 4.5 percent in that period, and the lira has slid by a similar amount, to a record low.

Ipek Ozkardeskaya, a currency strategist at Swissquote Bank SA in Geneva, said by e-mail today, that “if Syria is bombed, Turkey’s geopolitical risk will increase considerably.”

Turkey may commit warplanes, help arm the rebels or allow U.S. access to its air base at Incirlik for attacks or patrols over Syria, said Nihat Ali Ozcan, an analyst at the Economic Policy Research Foundation in Ankara.

“If you are willing to join a coalition against Syria, then it means you are ready to do whatever it takes,” Ozcan said by telephone. “I don’t see a great security risk from Syria, as long as Turkey does not engage in a cross-border ground attack.”

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