NATO-backed Patriot missile batteries stationed on Turkey’s border with Syria are actually meant to protect Israel from Iran, Tehran’s Foreign Ministry said Saturday.
The six long-range missile-defense batteries, which Ankara requested after Turkey was shelled on several occasions from inside Syria, are meant to keep Syria’s civil war from spilling across the border into Turkey, NATO officials say.
But Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the real reason behind them was to give the West a way to shield Israel from retaliatory Iranian missiles.
“Iranian military officials believe that the reason for deploying NATO’s Patriot missiles in Turkey is to prevent Iran from responding to the Zionist regime [of Israel] if it attacked Iran,” spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in Ankara Saturday, according to Iran’s state-run Press TV.
Israel does fear retaliation with mid- or long-range missiles should Jerusalem or the US choose to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, but NATO and Ankara have given no indication the batteries are in place to do anything but protect Turkey. Iranian missiles would not have to cross Turkish airspace in order to hit Israel.
Earlier this month, Turkey announced the locations for the three batteries, which are expected to be operational by late January.
“We made our application to NATO and they gave us six batteries and they will be deployed in Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras and Adana,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a Turkish TV station.
Iran, which is Syria’s strongest backer but also maintains ties with Turkey, has decried the deployment of the batteries, which can also be used to shoot down aircraft, as a “declaration of war.”
In October, a Patriot missile battery was deployed near the Israeli port of Haifa, days after a unmanned aerial vehicle from Lebanon managed to traverse nearly the whole country. The Israel Defense Forces said the two events were unconnected.
Patriot missiles were used to protect Israel and Saudi Arabia from Iraqi Scud missile attacks during the 1991 Gulf War, with middling success.