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US Nuclear Airbase in Turkey at Risk

(This post was originally published by Newsmax on August 2, 2016. It has been republished with the author’s permission.) 

On Sunday, July 31, thousands of Turks mobbed the gates of the NATO airbase at Incirlik, threatening to seize the facility from the U.S. for allegedly supporting a failed military coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Earlier, the base was cut-off from electricity and plunged into blackout, allegedly according to some sources by orders of the Erdogan government.

Stored at Incirlik are as many as 90 B-61 tactical nuclear bombs, according to estimates by various press reports. This would comprise half of European NATO’s tactical nuclear deterrent. Some 180 U.S. B-61 nuclear bombs are stored in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey for use by U.S. and NATO fighter-bombers.

The U.S. should immediately remove all nuclear weapons from Turkey and relocate them in European NATO countries or bring them back to the United States.

Why the Obama administration has not yet done so is a mystery.

It may be that Obama’s Defense Department has been so taken by surprise by events in Turkey that they are unprepared to execute emergency contingency plans to remove nuclear weapons from Incirlik, assuming such contingency plans even exist.

It may be that Obama’s State Department, as alleged off the record by some sources, wants the B-61 nuclear bombs to stay in Turkey as a sign of good faith in President Erdogan, as a confidence building measure to restore U.S.-Turkey military relations to normalcy.

Or it may be that the administration is afraid to try removing the B-61s, fearing that attempted removal might provoke the Turks to seize the nuclear weapons.

Incirlik is not, strictly speaking, a U.S. military base. It is a Turkish military base on loan to NATO, and shared with Turkey’s military. If the U.S. tries to remove its nuclear weapons, the Turks will probably know.

The axiom “history makes fools of us all” may be about to come true at Incirlik. For decades U.S. policymakers and analysts have worried that nuclear weapons might come into the possession of a radical Islamist state through Pakistan or Iran.

No one anticipated that radical Islam might takeover Turkey and that Turkey might seize U.S. nuclear weapons.

And Turkey under President Erdogan is well on its way to becoming a radical Islamist state. The failed military coup was a last-ditch attempt by moderates, who in the past have dominated Turkey’s military, to restore a secular government and stop Erdogan from taking Turkey further down the path of radical Islam.

Erdogan blames the United States for encouraging the coup attempt.

Now as Erdogan takes his revenge against moderates and secularists suspected of disloyalty, Turkey virtually overnight looks less like a member of NATO, subscribing to the norms of international human rights, and more like Iran.

Thousands have been arrested. 50,000 public servants have been fired. Mass executions may be in the offing. Today Turkey is a police state.

The Gatestone Institute cogently observes that Turkey, despite its long membership in NATO, aspirations to join the European Union, and a veneer of secularism, culturally has always been a radical Islamist state. Religious minorities are persecuted, even murdered, and are unprotected by the government.

Quoting journalist Tony Carnes, Robert Jones writes in “Turkey’s Tradition of Murdering Christians” (Gatestone July 31, 2016): “Few nations have as rich a Christian history as Turkey. This is where Paul founded some of the earliest churches, including the church at Ephesus . . .  But Christianity came under Islamic rule in Turkey in 1453 and steadily declined for centuries; the last 100 years have been the worst. In 1900, the Christian population was 22 percent. Now most experts estimate that there are fewer than 200,000 Christians nationwide, comprising less than 0.3 percent of the population.”

Erdogan aspires to restore the Ottoman Empire. Yet Sunni Turkey’s claim to leadership of the Islamic world is challenged by Shiite Iran getting nuclear weapons, which every nation in the Middle East sees as the inevitable consequence of President Obama’s Iranian nuclear deal.

Indian analyst Regan Traje warns in his article titled “The World Must Prepare For A Sunni Islamic Nuclear Coalition” (Swarajya July 30, 2016): “A Sunni nuclear axis with Turkey and Saudi Arabia might soon be a reality. And Pakistan would be at its forefront.”

According to Traje’s analysis: “In the Sunni Islamist worldview . . . all non-Muslim states are . . . colluding against Islam . . . To all three, the strategic benefits of a nuclear axis are undeniable. For Pakistan . . . to emerge as a leader of the Islamic world has always been its ambition . . . As for Turkey, the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is turning the country into a quasi-Ottoman state . . .  For all three, the creation of a Sunni nuclear axis covering Turkic, Arab and South Asian Muslims, who make up the bulk of the world Islamic population, promises a powerful reorientation from their current secondary role in the global public space.”

Turkey could overnight become a nuclear weapons state, and leader of Traje’s envisioned Sunni Islamist axis, by seizing the B-61s at Incirlik.

Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security. He served in the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of “Blackout Wars.” For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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Dr. Peter Pry
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, both Congressional Advisory Boards, and served on the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of the books "Blackout Wars", "Apocalypse Unknown", and "Electric Armageddon".