DEBKAfile Special Report
April 26, 2009, 5:41 PM (GMT+02:00)
Turkish tanks head for Syria
The joint Turkish-Syrian tank and armored infantry exercise backed by air power begins across the Turkish-Syrian border Monday, April 27, and lasts three days.
DEBKAfile's military sources stress that it is the first joint military maneuver any NATO member, including Turkey, has ever carried out with Syria. It appears to have received a nod from the Obama administration and another first: Never before has an important NATO power staged a joint exercise with any Arab army.
Ankara's decision to launch the drill on the day Israeli commemorates its war dead - in league with Iran's leading ally - is a measure of how far Turkey's longstanding strategic pact with the Jewish state has fallen by the wayside of recent changes.
Washington's approval underscores its new policy of boosting the strength of the Syrian army as partner in a strong a three-way military coalition with Turkey and Lebanon.
Ankara made its announcement while US secretary of state Hillary Clinton was on a short visit to Beirut.
It comes only four days after another first US step: Tuesday, April 22, DEBKAfile's exclusive sources reported that the Obama administration had just approved a large Turkish arms sale to the Lebanese army assigning Turkish military instructors to train Lebanese army units (half of whose personnel are Shiites sympathetic to Hizballah.)
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Neither of the Obama administration's actions took into account Israel's vital security interests; nor was Jerusalem consulted about the strategic changes on its borders - or even informed.
DEBKAfile reports that both US drastic policy reverses are causing extreme consternation in Israel's top security echelons, which are criticizing the new Netanyahu government for taking too long to respond to the dire security setbacks piling up around its borders. The most troubling development confronting Israel in years is the grouping together of the Turkish, Syrian and Lebanese armies.
According to the statement from Ankara, the joint exercise "aims to boost friendship, cooperation and trust between Turkish and Syrian land forces and to increase the capability of border troops to train and work together."
In recent weeks, too many developments are closing in too fast and too dangerously for Binyamin Netanyahu to put the whole can of worms on hold until he has a chance to figure out his policies and talk to Barack Obama in the coming month. The dynamic on the ground will be in full flight by then. Too late, the Israeli prime minister will find the security situation running out of his control. Turning back the clock will be hopeless and he will find himself fed some unpalatable accomplished facts.