When IDF Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi accused Iran and Hizballah Wednesday, Jan. 11of directly helping Bashar Assad repress the uprising against him with arms, Turkey had just taken a stand against the Iranian corridor running weapons to Syria via its territory, debkafile's military sources report.
Earlier this week, Ankara reported halting five Iranian trucks loaded with weapons for Syria at the Killis Turkish-Syrian border crossing and impounding its freight. According to our intelligence sources, the Iranian convoy was not really stopped at Killis but at the eastern Turkish Dobubayazit border crossing with Iran, near Mount Ararat. This supply route for Syria had been going strong for months. Ankara's decision to suspend it has reduced its volume by 60 percent.
The Turks kept very quiet about the Dogubayazit route because disclosure would have exposed them as working two sides of the Syrian conflict – letting Tehran set up a clandestine arms route for helping the Assad regime crack down on protest, while publicly posing as the leading champions of the Syrian protest movement – even to providing the Free Syria Army with bases and training facilities.
The influx of Iranian arms supplies via Turkey gave the Syrian army a major boost in quelling the uprising especially in the restive towns of Hama, Homs and Idlib, where demonstrations have dwindled. Now Ankara is worried about the consequences. Thursday, President Abdullah Gul raised fears of the Syrian uprising mutating into civil war. Our sources report that Ankara is concerned that sectarian conflict in Syria could spill over into Turkey.
In fact, as debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report exclusively, Ankara changed course against Iran after Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited Tehran on Jan. 5. His mission was to warn Iranian leaders including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whom he met that Turkey will not stand for Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb and would act to disrupt its program.
Although his visit was officially presented as an effort to broker the resumption of long-stalled nuclear talks between Tehran and the five world powers plus Germany (P5+1), Davutoglu in fact informed Ahmadinejad in no-nonsense terms, “Turkey can't live between two nuclear powers, one to the north (Russia) and one to the east (Iran)." The minister warned that if Tehran goes into production of a nuclear weapon, Ankara's first step would be to open the door for NATO forces to deploy along its border with Iran.
According to debkafile sources, Davutoglu gave Ahmadinejad a week to clarify the information reaching the West that Tehran had already begun assembling a nuclear weapon, so belying the persistent Iranian claim that its nuclear program is peaceful. After that, he said, Ankara would embark on progressively tougher counter-action.
And indeed, when clarifications from Tehran had not been received by Tuesday, Jan. 10, Turkey went into action to halt the Iranian weapons convoy to Syria.
Taking advantage of the new opportunities presented by the US military departure from Iraq last month, Iranian officials the next day, Wednesday, Jan. 11, ordered Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to shut the Iraqi-Jordanian border to convoys carrying Turkish export goods to Persian Gulf destinations.
The following day, Thursday, Iran's Speaker of Parliament, Ali Larijani, turned up in Ankara to try and sort things out between Iran and Turkey before they got out of hand.