US Embassy: Turkey, US sign deal to train, arm Syrian rebels; while Turkey won’t link air defense system to NATO, preferring China

Smoke rises during clashes between rebel fighters and forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Ratian village, north of Aleppo, Syria February 17, 2015. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

ISTANBUL — Turkey and the United States signed an agreement Thursday to train and arm Syrian rebels fighting the Islamic State group, said the U.S. Embassy in Ankara.

The two countries have been in talks about such a pact for several months. The deal was signed Thursday evening by U.S Ambassador John Bass and Turkish Foreign Ministry undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu, said Embassy spokesman Joe Wierichs. He gave no further details.

Sinirlioglu called the deal “an important step” in the strategic partnership between Turkey and the United States, according to Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency.

The Turkish government has said the training by U.S. and Turkish soldiers could begin as early as next month at a base in the central Anatolian city of Kirsehir, and involve hundreds of Syrian fighters in the first year. The U.S. has said the goal is to go after the Islamic State group, but Turkish officials have suggested that the trained rebels could also target the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad…


Another Obama disaster. Erdogan is obsessed with getting rid of Assad. Moreover, they are not much of an ally:

Related story from today: Turkey to go ahead with non-NATO-integrated missile defense from China: Turkey’s new defense missile system, for which Ankara is in talks on a $3.4 billion deal with a Chinese company, will not be integrated with one used by NATO, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz has said.

Ankara will use the long-range system without integrating it with NATO’s system, Yılmaz said in his elaboration on the issue, which came in response to a parliamentary question filed by an opposition deputy.

Turkey originally awarded the tender to China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corporation (CPMIEC) in 2013, prompting U.S. and NATO officials to say the deal could raise questions over security…

As for arming rebels at all: In dramatic shift, former U.S. envoy no longer supports arming Syria rebels: Robert Ford was always one of the Syrian rebels’ loudest cheerleaders in Washington, agitating from within a reluctant administration to arm vetted moderates to fight President Bashar Assad’s government.

In recent weeks, however, Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria who made news when he left government service a year ago with an angry critique of Obama administration policy, has dropped his call to provide weapons to the rebels. Instead, he’s become increasingly critical of the rebels as disjointed and untrustworthy because they collaborate with jihadists…

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