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Friends and Allies
Turkey Questions US Use of Airbase at Incirlik

With Aleppo subdued, Russia has been providing air support to a Turkish push against ISIS around al-Bab, as part of its “Euphrates Shield” operation. Ankara’s mission there has a dual purpose: to keep the Islamic State away from Turkey’s borders, and to prevent Kurdish militants from consolidating their gains and creating a contiguous para-state in the same region.

The problem is that the United States has been relying on the same Kurdish fighters as its main proxy force in fighting ISIS. Ankara has never been happy about this, but with Russia at its side, its complaint has grown louder. Reuters:

President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Thursday there was no need for a “rushed evaluation” on Incirlik, a base used by NATO allies to launch air strikes against Islamic State in neighboring Syria.

But he questioned why the United States, which backs some Kurdish groups against Islamic State in northern Syria, had not lent support to NATO ally Turkey’s latest push to take the Syrian town of al-Bab back from the jihadists.

“In the past month-and-a-half, we have seen and understood that this support was not given at the sufficient level and effectiveness,” Kalin told broadcaster Kanal 24, calling for full support and saying “excuses are not acceptable”. […]

Kalin said he hoped the administration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who will be sworn in on Jan. 20, would be more attuned to Turkey’s sensitivities.

Incirlik air base is not just a launching point for attacks against ISIS in Syria. It’s also where the United States has positioned up to 50 of its tactical nuclear weapons.

Will the Trump Administration be more attentive to Ankara’s anxieties? It’s an open question. As Adam Garfinkle recently pointed out, lurking beneath Team Trump’s stated determination to fight ISIS are a whole slew of contradictory sympathies and policy goals. Turkey may be among the winners when an attempt is made to reconcile them. Then again, it might not.

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  • Andrew Allison

    “Will the Trump Administration be more attentive to Ankara’s anxieties? It’s an open question. As Adam Garfinkle recently pointed out, lurking beneath Team Trump’s stated determination to fight ISIS are a whole slew of contradictory sympathies and policy goals. Turkey may be among the winners when an attempt is made to reconcile them. Then again, it might not.” In other words, this post is a waste of keystrokes.

    • Kevin

      Pointing out that Trump faces a dilemma here is far from pointless from my POV.

  • Fat_Man

    For God’s sake get the nuclear weapons out of there. The danger of the Turks, the Russians, and the Iranians stealing them is far too grave.

    Second. it is long past time when we should shut down Incirlik, and get our people away from a situation where they could become the hostages of an Islamist madman. On our way out we should destroy the place and its facilities so that the Russians and the Turks cannot use them.

  • Disappeared4x

    How to be “…be more attuned to Turkey’s sensitivities.”? Make The Eastern Question a permanent feature of global angst: after 252 years, the UN Security Council needs to finally answer The Eastern Question.

  • Josephbleau

    Turkey is not an ordinary NATO ally is it. If Russia attacks them we may be obligated to expend those tactical weapons and that would be expensive. Spending American blood for them would be a double tragedy. Sounds like they are shacking up with the other man and need to decide who ‘s bedroom they like best.

  • Fat_Man

    It is long past time when we should shut down Incirlik, and get our people away from a situation where they could become the hostages of an Islamist madman. On our way out we should destroy the place and its facilities so that the Russians and the Turks cannot use them. If there are nuclear weapons at Incirlik, we must get them out of there STAT. The danger of the Turks, the Russians, and the Iranians stealing them is far too grave. Incirlik should be replaced by a new base in Jordan that should also house an armored brigade. That would serve to protect Jordan from both ISIS and Iran.

    Turkey has no economic or strategic importance to the United States. Turkey has no natural resources of any importance. It has no technology, and limited industrial capacity. No trade routes go through Turkey. If Turkey were destroyed utterly by some natural calamity, the United States and its people would not notice the missing country in any way. And it would have no impact on the world at large. Although the Kurds would be very happy.

    The idea that Turkey has strategic importance is a historical remnant. At the First Millennium of the Christian Era, Constantinople was the largest and richest city in western Eurasia. In 1453, the Turks conquered Constantinople. They then controlled the trade routes between Europe and East Asia. The Europeans responded by exploring the sea routes to Asia, and in the process discovered the New World. Ocean trade always trumps land routes. Turkey began its long slide into irrelevance. In the 19th Century, control of the Eastern Mediterranean, and the trade routes from India to Britain was a vital object of British foreign policy. None of that has any relevance in the 21st century. Turkey is just another dying Islamic country without oil.

    Under Erdogan, the Turks have not been friends of the United States. The United States needs the Turks like it needs boils. And boils is pretty much what the Turks have been to US foreign policy for the past 15 years.

    It is true that Turkey is a member of NATO, but that just shows how worthless and outdated NATO is. Turkey is, in large part, responsible for the refugee invasion of Western Europe.

    It is time to pull out of Turkey and leave the Turks to their fate. The world would be better off if Turkey were cut into three pieces. Turkey in Europe, the suburbs of Constantinople, and the Black Sea littoral should be given to Russia and Christianized. The Eastern third of Turkey should be given to the Kurds, and the remainder should be left to rot. As to seaports for the Kurds, they could take Hatay Province from Turkey. It is the chunk of Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast north of Syria. Its capital is Antakya (Antioch), and its port city is Iskenderun (Alexandretta).

    The Black Sea is a piddly thing surrounded by countries that are poor and irrelevant to the United States, other than our ancient enemy Russia. We would be daft to send much in the way of Naval assets into the Black Sea, because they would be at the mercy of both the Turks and the Russians.

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