Turkey Threatens To Block US From Using Incirlik Airbase
In the immediate aftermath of the failed Turkish “coup” of July 2016, the immediate concern to the US was not the fate of the Erdogan regime, but whether the US would maintain access to Incirlik Air Base, a strategic output for the US airforce, allowing it fast and easy access to most of the Middle East and part of Russia even in the immediate absence of an aircraft carrier. It explains why when Erdogan said he felt snubbed by the US, he cut off the power to the US troops stationed at the airbase, and kept them in the dark for a considerable period of time, perhaps to remind Washington that in Turkey he is the boss.
Fast forward to this week, when on Wednesday, Turkish officials again made a veiled threat to ground U.S. warplanes at Incirlik Air Base over the U.S. denial of air support for the Turkish military inside Syria. The officials questioned the value of having the U.S. fly missions out of Incirlik in southeastern Turkey against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq while Turkish forces are struggling to take the ISIS-held Syrian town of El Bab.
“This is leading to serious disappointment in Turkish public opinion,” Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said, adding that “this is leading to questions over Incirlik,” Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reported.
He then once again treatened the US, when he said that to avoid repercussions that could affect Incirlik operations, the Defense Minister called on the U.S. to “start to provide the aerial support and other support that the [Turkish military] needs” to take El Bab, which would also drive a wedge between Syrian Kurdish militias supported by the U.S. in actions against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
U.S. Air Force Col. John Dorrian said Wednesday than any actions by Turkey to shut down or limit U.S. air operations out of Incirlik would be disastrous for the U.S. anti-ISIS campaign now focused in Syria on the drive by a mixed Syrian Kurdish and Arab force against Raqqa, the self-proclaimed ISIS capital. What he meant to say is that it would disastrous for the U.S., period, as it would deprive the US of one of its most critical military outputs in the MENA region.