Iran claims Turkey backing al Qaeda fighters along Syrian border

Members of the al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra terror group are carrying out strikes against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad with the support of Turkish forces near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. 

Turkish officials have also attempted to facilitate arms shipments from Russian weapons suppliers to Jabhat al-Nusra fighters and create a training base in Yemen for Syrian rebels, according to Iran's state-run Fars news agency. 

Syria has repeatedly accused Turkey and other regional powers of supporting terror groups fighting alongside Syrian rebels in the nearly year-long civil war. 

Turkey's foreign ministry has denied any allegations of armed support for the terror group in Syria or elsewhere in the Mideast, noting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has not entered into any talks with Yemen over establishing a rebel base, according to news reports.  

Al Qaeda's growing influence within the Syrian resistance is one of the main reasons why Washington has been hesitant to supply arms directly to rebel forces. 

In October, a classified U.S. review found the majority of small arms and munitions already sent to Syrian rebels by Arab nations have fallen into the hands of terror groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and others. 

“The opposition groups that are receiving the most of the lethal aid are exactly the ones we don’t want to have it,” a U.S. official familiar with the classified findings told The New York Times that month. 

Since last June, government troops and paramilitary forces loyal to Assad have battled their way to a bloody stalemate with rebel fighters looking to oust Assad from power.

Anti-Assad forces have managed to maintain a tenuous hold on areas in northern Syria, but government troops continue to hammer away at rebel positions with tanks, fighter jets and other heavy weaponry.  

Iran has remained one of Assad's strongest allies during the war, while Turkey has taken an increasingly aggressive stance toward its regional neighbor after Syrian troops shelled targets inside Turkey earlier this year. 

In October, Turkish lawmakers took the controversial step of authorizing military action inside Syria shortly after the attacks, but Ankara was adamant the decision was not intended as an open declaration of war. 

Turkish officials have also consulted with NATO on the possibility of military action by the alliance against Syria, akin to the peacekeeping operation U.S. and NATO forces carried out in Libya. 

The White House and NATO are reportedly mulling the notion of moving advanced Patriot missile interceptor systems into Turkey, as a way to protect the country from any further attacks from Assad's forces. 

However, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters last Wednesday that Washington has yet to receive a formal request from NATO to deploy the Patriot missile into Turkey.