Turkey has asked the U.S. to deploy two Patriot missile-defense batteries on its southern border to free it to punish any future attacks by Russian-backed Syrian troops, according to a senior Turkish official in Ankara. The disclosure was almost immediately followed on Thursday by a spasm of violence that left two Turkish troops dead and five wounded, and underscored the risks as two regional powerbrokers assert their influence in northwestern Syria.
The fighting increased the number of Turkish troops killed in the Idlib area over the last three weeks to at least 15 as pro-government forces, supported by Russian air power, seek to crush the last major pocket of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad. Turkish Air Force could use F-16 warplanes to strike units loyal to Assad in Idlib if the Patriots were deployed in Hatay on Turkey’s border to provide protection.
Turkey is yet to receive a U.S. response to the request, which was relayed last week to James Jeffrey, the U.S. envoy for Syria engagement, the official said, asking not to be identified discussing sensitive information. The U.S. Embassy in Turkey declined to comment. Spokespeople for the White House and U.S. National Security Council didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.