The US decision to upgrade Syrian rebel weaponry has run into a major setback: DEBKAfile reveals that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan phoned President Barack Obama in Berlin Wednesday, June 19, to report his sudden decision to shut down the Turkish corridor for the transfer of US and NATO arms to the Syrian rebels.
Against this background, the US President informed Congress Friday, June 22, that 700 combat-equipped American military personnel would remain in Jordan at the end of a joint US-Jordanian training exercise. They would include crews of two Patriot anti-aircraft missile batteries and the logistics, command and communications personnel needed to support those units. The United States is also leaving behind from the war maneuver a squadron of 12 to 24 F-16 fighter jets at Jordan’s request. Some 300 US troops have been in Jordan since last year.
Erdogan’s decision will leave the Syrian rebels fighting in Aleppo virtually high and dry. The fall of Qusayr cut off their supplies of arms from Lebanon. Deliveries through Jordan reach only as far as southern Syria and are almost impossible to move to the north where the rebels and the Hizballah-backed Syrian army are locked in a decisive battle for Aleppo.
The Turkish prime minister told Obama he is afraid of Russian retribution if he continues to let US and NATO weapons through to the Syrian rebels.
Since the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland last week, Moscow has issued almost daily condemnations of the West for arming “terrorists.”
Rebel spokesmen in Aleppo claimed Friday that they now had weapons which they believe “will change the course of the battle on the ground.”
DEBKAfile’s military sources are strongly skeptical of their ability – even after the new deliveries – to stand up to the onslaught on their positions in the embattled town by the combined strength of the Syrian army, Hizballah troops and armed Iraqi Shiites. The prevailing intelligence assessment is that they will be crushed in Aleppo as they were in Al Qusayr.
That battle was lost after 16 days of ferocious combat; Aleppo is expected to fall after 40-60 days of great bloodshed.
The arms the rebels received from US, NATO and European sources were purchased on international markets – not only because they were relatively cheap but because they were mostly of Russian manufacture. The rebels are thus equipped with Russian weapons for fighting the Russian arms used by the Syria army. This made Moscow angrier than ever.
Until now, the Erdogan government was fully supportive of the Syrian opposition, permitting them to establish vital command centers and rear bases on Turkish soil and send supplies across the border to fighting units. He has now pulled the rug out from under their cause and given Assad a major leg-up
This about-turn is a strategic earthquake – not just in terms of the Syrian war but also for the United States and, as time goes by, for Israel too.
Ten years ago, Erdogan pulled the same maneuver when he denied US troops passage through Turkey to Iraq for opening a second front against Saddam Hussein.
President Obama reacted by topping up the US deployment in Jordan by 700 combat-equipped troops to 1,000. Patriot missile interceptors and F-16 fighter jets are left behind from their joint war game for as long as the security situation requires. DEBKAfile: The joint US-Jordanian maneuver was in fact abruptly curtailed after two weeks although it was planned to continue for two months until the end of August.
The widening disruptions of the surging Syrian war are on the point of tipping over into Jordan and coming closer than ever to Israel.