Washington: The US is intensifying its intelligence sharing and military consultations with Turkey behind the scenes, as both countries prepare for a looming possibility that Syria’s civil conflict might escalate into a regional war, American and NATO officials have said.
The Obama administration has maintained that it wants to avoid getting drawn militarily into Syria, and has resisted pressure from Arab allies and some Republicans to back Syria’s rebel groups, but with Syria’s internal conflict increasingly spilling across its border into Turkey, the US Government has stepped up cooperation with its key NATO ally.
“I can certainly assure you that our militaries, our military officers, are in contact. This week I know there is a special focus of our military experts talking about Syria. And what militaries do well is plan for every contingency and every eventuality,” the Washington Post quoted Francis J Ricciardone Jr, the US ambassador to Turkey, as saying.
According to the paper, the United States and NATO have publicly supported Turkey in the cross-border shelling against Syria, saying it has a right to act in self-defense. But at the same time, they have called for restraint and repeated that neither Washington nor Brussels has any intention of getting involved militarily.
The Obama administration has maintained that it would likely intervene if Assad’s government engaged in chemical or biological warfare.
Behind the scenes, however, the border clashes have changed the strategic calculus and led US military and intelligence officials in particular to collaborate more closely with Turkey, the paper said.
US officials also revealed that in recent weeks, military officials from both countries have met to make contingency plans to impose no-fly zones over Syrian territory or seize Syria’s stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, it added.