Several Scud missiles that were fired at rebels by the Syrian government landed “fairly close” to the Turkish border, according to NATO’s top military commander.
The comments came from a blog on Friday, which explained why Patriot anti-missile batteries are being sent to Turkey, reports Reuters.
The comments on Syrian Scuds came from US Admiral James Stavridis, who works as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe. They were also the first that confirmed Scuds came down near the border between Syria and Turkey — a NATO member state.
US and NATO officials were quoted on Wednesday as saying that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad’s forces fired Scud-type ballistic missiles at rebels in recent days. Stavridis echoed the comments, writing:
“Over the past few days, a handful of Scud missiles were launched inside Syria, directed by the regime against opposition targets. Several landed fairly close to the Turkish border, which is very worrisome.”
The use of Scuds in particular is troubling, according to Stavridis, who stated that “they can carry chemical payloads.” Syria is widely known to possess chemical weapons. MSN News notes that Syria has denied the use of Scud missiles in the fight against what it considers “terrorist groups.”
Syria and Turkey have shelled each other in recent months in a growing escalation in the 20-month-long Syrian conflict. It is expected that, if any Scud missiles do find their way over Syria’s border with Turkey, it would carry an increased risk of the conflict spreading and destabilizing the fragile region. Stavridis added:
“Syria is clearly a chaotic and dangerous situation; but we have an absolute obligation to defend the borders of the alliance from any threat emanating from that troubled state.”
It was for this reason that NATO is sending the Patriot missiles to reinforce Turkey’s border defenses against a possible missile attack from Syria. Several experts have also commented that the use of Scud missiles by Syria is an indication that Assad’s regime is fighting one last desperate attempt to avoid being ousted by the rebels.