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Turkey agrees to turn missile defense radar on Iran, backing U.S.-NATO plan

WASHINGTON – In a major security gain for the Obama administration’s wishes for European missile defense, Turkey has agreed to emplace U.S. early warning radar on its land, facing Iran and linked into the U.S. Aegis ship-borne system.

Though the agreement has some further required approvals to clear, a Pentagon spokesman said the radar system is in the process of being integrated with the Aegis system.

“This component will link into the ballistic missile defense-capable Aegis ships that we operate in the Mediterranean,” said Col. David Lapan. “The hope is to have it deployed by the end of this year.”

Turkey remains a unique ally to the U.S. in the region, caught between the Arab Spring and Iranian ambitions. Also this week, Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador in protest for Israel stopping aid flotillas to Gaza, which have been extremely unpopular across the Arab world. But Turkey is showing increased signs of tensions with Iran over the crisis in Syria and embattled President Bashar Assad.

“The [radar] deal could also ratchet up tensions between Turkey and Iran, which sees the system as a threat,” writes The Wall Street Journal’s Adam Entous. The Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance, or AN/TPY-2, is a high-powered radar the U.S. will place on an undisclosed Turkish military site.  

In 2009, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates was hotly criticized by fellow conservatives for supporting Obama’s new “phased adaptive approach” to missile defense, scrapping President George W. Bush’s anti-ballistic missile plan for Europe that was more focused on repelling Cold War-era, nuclear-tipped Russian missiles. Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz, blasted Obama's shift as “a victory for Putin.”

The new plan is more heavily weighted toward using the mobile ship-borne system to protect Europe against a "salvo" of Iranian missiles, which Gates said was a far more likely threat.

At the Lisbon Summit in November 2010, NATO members agreed to pursue a system directed at those latter threats.

Related: Czechs bow out of U.S. plan for Europe missile shield, look to NATO  

 

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