NATO missiles on the Turkish-Syrian border are a prelude to 'World War', warns Iran’s top general. Following the remarks, the country’s leader, President Ahmadinejad, reportedly cancels his visit to Turkey.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has dropped the upcoming visit to Turkey’s Anatolian province from his schedule, Hurriyet daily reported Sunday. There he was expected to attend a religious holiday and hold talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
An unexpected item has arisen on Ahmadinejad's agenda, Today’s Zaman reported quoting an anonymous Turkish diplomat.
The sudden change of plans comes in the wake of a harsh statement made by Major General Hassan Firouzabadi who lashed out at Ankara for getting ready to host NATO Patriot missile systems.
Following news about the alliance sending several batteries of surface-to-air missile systems to Turkey, Firouzabadi, who is the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, warned the move would only encourage further aggravation of the Syrian conflict.
“Unfortunately, one by one, Western countries are approving the deployment of Patriot missiles to Turkey’s border with Syria while they are planning a world war, which is very dangerous for the future of humanity and Europe itself,” General Firouzabadi said on Saturday.
Commander Firouzabadi advised Turkey and other states promising to deliver Patriot systems to the Middle East to consciously show restraint and reconsider the decision before it is too late.“The wise and the elite in Europe, the US and Turkey should dismantle the Patriots and take them away from the region before a fire breaks out,”
Speaking at a military college, the general acknowledged that the Patriot missiles pose a threat to the security of the region.
“Each one of them is a black dot on the map, (setting the stage) to create a world war," ISNA news agency quoted Firouzabadi as saying.
On November 21 Ankara requested NATO to deploy Patriot missiles along its border with Syria after a series of cross-border exchanges of fire. Turkey’s request was granted on December 4, with Germany and the Netherlands currently preparing to airlift two Patriot batteries each. Approximately 400 German and 360 Dutch troops will accompany the batteries to Turkey in early January 2013.
On Friday US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta signed an order to deploy two Patriot air-defense missile batteries to Turkey, which will also be accompanied by 400 American servicemen tasked with operating the systems.
Turkey reportedly allowed its NATO partners to establish a new military base in the country’s western province of Izmir in early December. Also, a team of NATO specialists is already busy picking possible sites for Patriot batteries in the Turkish southeastern province of Sanliurfa, which also borders Syria.
Russia and Iran strongly opposed NATO’s initiative from its inception. After Turkey announced plans to host the Patriot systems, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov voiced Russia's concerns in a telephone conversation with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
"Any provocation may trigger a very serious armed conflict. We want to avoid this,” Lavrov warned in November.
During an official visit to Turkey in early December, Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed that accumulating weapons on the border with another country does not contribute to regional stability.
Quoting a famous Russian playwright, Putin observed that “if a gun is hanging on the wall in the beginning of the show, closer to the end it will surely fire.”
Putin also noted that Patriot missiles are no longer state of the art military technology, and thus pose questionable safety guarantees.
In August General Hassan Firouzabadi warned Ankara that by aiding the Syrian opposition, Turkey risked bringing the conflict onto its territory. Turkish authorities reacted harshly to the implication.
On Saturday Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi promised Tehran will not allow the West to oust President Bashar Assad.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran won't allow Western plans and scenarios aimed at overthrowing the Syrian government to succeed,” the minister said via a commented posted on the website for Iranian state TV.