Update on the failed Turkish coup. Part 5 The nuke situation in Turkey.

by omouggos

B61 variable yield nuclear bomb. (image from motherjones.com)

İncirlik air base is located in Southern Turkey on the outskirts of the city of Adana. In addition to being used by Turkish forces, the base is also utilized by NATO and, since August of last year, by the US-led coalition to bomb ISIL positions in northern Syria.1 With the recent Russian-Turkish rapprochement, there is now talk that Russian warplanes could use İncirlik to target Syrian rebel groups.2

The air base at İncirlik has also been implicated in the recent July 15 attempted coup as an important epicenter of the coup plotters. The head of the base, brigadier air force general Bekir Ercan Van was arrested for his alleged complicity in the coup, as were other soldiers.3 In a Turkish indictment against America military officials accused of plotting the coup, it was asserted that the coup was planned at İncirlik air base.4 It has also been claimed that retired US General John Campbell, the ostensible mastermind of the coup, had a secret meeting with coup plotters at İncirlik some time before July 15.5 In response to this hub of mutiny the air base was put into lockdown by pro-Erdoğan forces and the power was cut off for a number of days.6

What is particularly interesting about the ongoings at İncirlik is that over 1,500 American military personnel and other NATO personnel have been effectively detained at the base without electricity for days, and that a NATO (American) cache of nuclear bombs is stored there. To be precise, around 50 B61 variable yield thermonuclear bombs, which can be set to an explosive yield of from 0.3 kt to 170 kt, the latter setting being over 10 times more powerful than the Little Boy atomic bomb that leveled Hiroshima.7 The storage of these weapons at İncirlik can be considered a vestige of cold war and they amount to over 25% of the total NATO nuclear stockpile.

When news of the lock down at İncirlik air base began coming out, there were some (Walid Shoebat, ZeroHedge, etc.) who were immediately concerned with their security, as it was argued that the megalomaniacal Erdoğan was more than crazy enough to seize the nuclear weapons. After all if one desires to create a powerful empire along the lines of the old Ottoman empire then thermonuclear bombs would come in handy. DEBKAfile suggested that Erdoğan’s ‘detaining’ of US forces at İncirlik was a ploy intended to exert pressure on the US government to compel them to extradite Gülen back to Turkey.8 Of course the mainstream media either ignored the issue or just dismissed any concerns as being conspiratorial fear mongering.

However, the situation continued to intensify in seriousness. On July 28, Walid Shoebat reported that convoys of Turkish protestors, along with Muslim Brotherhood supporters, were making their way to İncirlik chanting anti-American and anti-Israel slogans.9 Apparently their intention was to hold a massive anti-American rally. Furthermore, Shoebat has subsequently reported that over 7000 pro-Erdoğan police equipped with heavy vehicles have surrounded the İncirlik air base.

Around two weeks after these events it seems that mainstream analysts finally acknowledged the risks pertaining to the nuclear bombs stored at İncirlik. In an article summarizing a report by the Stimson Center think tank it was stated that “The continued presence of dozens of U.S. nuclear weapons at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey raises serious risks of their seizure by terrorists and other hostile forces.10 Furthermore the report concluded it was an “unanswerable question” whether “the U.S. could have maintained control of the [nuclear] weapons [at Incirlik] in the event of a protracted civil conflict in Turkey.” One of the authors of the report Laicie Heeley remarked “From a security point of view, it’s a roll of the dice to continue to have approximately 50 of America’s nuclear weapons stationed at İncirlik Air Base in Turkey. There are significant safeguards in place. … But safeguards are just that, they don’t eliminate risk. In the event of a coup, we can’t say for certain that we would have been able to maintain control.

If this is not enough to realize the security of the nukes at İncirlik are in danger, it has been reported that İbrahim Karagül, a journalist with close ties to Erdoğan, tweeted in Turkish, “the nukes in Incirlik must be handed over to Turkey. Or else, Turkey should take control of them.11 Such a tweet from Karagül is not really that surprising, as in his recent op-ed pieces for Yeni Safak he has been adamant that the US, and European countries, were behind the July 15 coup, that they are in cahouts with the PKK, PYD, FETO and ISIL, and that they wanted to kill Erdoğan.12 A person who believes such things, that the US is out to get their country, would think it advisable to acquire nukes to protect themselves.

Thankfully it seems the US military is has become cognizant of the nuke dangers and have begun evacuating some of the B61 bombs from İncirlik. It is being reported that he nukes are being relocated to Deveselu air base in Romania.13 It remains to be seen whether the whole stockpile will be relocated, but regardless this is a very interesting turn of events.

It may seem obvious why the US is undertaking this course of action–due to security concerns–but there are some other theories floating around to explain this abrupt action. According to infowars, since the nukes are being moved to Romania, where the US has a missile defense installation, that this is intended to bolster NATO in its opposition to Russia, in what is quickly escalating into a new cold war.14

However, since the B61 is a gravity bomb, unless it is going to be delivered by the stealthy F-22 Raptor, most US warplanes stationed at Deveselu would be susceptible to Russia’s advanced air defense systems and probably would be destoyed before they could strike their targets. Furthermore, strategic bombers such as the B1 or B2 are unlikely to be stationed at Deveselu as they usually operate from bases in America, where they are sufficiently distant from Russia’s offensive nuclear weapons to be scrambled in time to survive a Russian first strike. As such I do not believe that the deployment of B61 bombs to Romania would be an effective deterrent to Russia, and the US probably realizes this. What the Russians are concerned about is the possible deployment of nuclear tipped cruise missiles to Romania. Consequently it seems unlikely that US is attempting to intimidate Russia with this redeployment of B61 nukes.

It should also be noted that with Russia and Turkey becoming closer as allies it is possible that in the future the Russian air force may utilize the İncirlik air base for bombing sorties against rebel targets in Syria. As such the Americans may not want to have their nukes at a facility that could house Russian forces, partly for fear of espionage. Furthermore the increasing cooperation between Russia and Turkey may have caused the US to realize Turkey is no longer a reliable ally, even though they may be a NATO member, which gave them further impetus to relocate the nukes.

Whatever the exact reason it is, the American relocation of nuclear weapons is an important development in the Middle East and has been precipitated by the July 15 attempted coup. We will have to wait and see how this drama unfolds.

O Mouggos

References

[1] http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-president-confirms-us-use-of-incirlik-base.aspx?pageID=238&nID=85884&NewsCatID=338 , http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/us-uses-armed-drones-against-isil-in-syria.aspx?pageID=238&nID=86444&NewsCatID=359 , http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/us-f-16-fighters-fly-first-anti-isil-missions-from-turkey.aspx?pageID=238&nID=86871&NewsCatID=359

[2] http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2016/07/04/Turkey-proposes-cooperation-with-Russia-in-fighting-ISIS.html , http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/russia-says-turkey-could-provide-incirlik-base-for-moscows-syria-campaign.aspx?pageID=238&nID=102955&NewsCatID=353

[3] http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/07/17/475575/Turkey-US-Coup-Base-Military- , http://www.dailysabah.com/investigations/2016/07/18/8-soldiers-arrested-at-incirlik-air-base-for-role-in-failed-coup

[4] https://www.turkishminute.com/2016/08/02/turkey-files-complaint-accusing-us-army-chief-gen-dunford-plotting-attempted-coup/

[5] http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-is-in-big-danger-if-us-was-behind-coup-attempt-mhp-leader.aspx?pageID=238&nID=102115&NewsCatID=338 , http://shoebat.com/2016/07/25/turkey-threatens-the-u-s-charging-that-the-cia-sent-retired-u-s-general-to-mastermind-the-july-15th-coup/

[6] http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-authorities-impose-lockdown-at-incirlik-air-base-us-consulate—————–.aspx?pageID=517&nID=101697&NewsCatID=341 , http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/commercial-power-back-at-turkish-air-base-used-in-isil-fight-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=101984&NewsCatID=341

[7] http://www.aina.org/news/20160718200114.htm

[8] http://www.debka.com/article/25560/Erdogan-locks-US-airmen-nuclear-arms-in-Incirlik

[9] http://shoebat.com/2016/07/28/breaking-convoys-of-berserk-muslims-headed-against-us-air-force-base-in-turkey/ , http://shoebat.com/2016/07/30/breaking-7000-turkish-forces-with-heavy-equipment-surround-home-of-us-nukes-us-air-base-in-turkey-where-a-lockdown-is-in-progress/

[10] http://www.stimson.org/content/us-nuclear-weapons-turkey-risk-seizure-terrorists-hostile-forces

[11] https://www.superstation95.com/index.php/world/1843

[12] http://www.yenisafak.com/en/columns/ibrahimkaragul/who-is-pursuing-the-turkey-phase-of-the-islamic-civil-war-theory-2031233 , http://www.yenisafak.com/en/columns/ibrahimkaragul/new-attack-will-come-from-the-south-lets-save-turkey-from-invasion-2031250?n=1 , http://www.yenisafak.com/en/columns/ibrahimkaragul/new-attack-will-come-from-the-south-lets-save-turkey-from-invasion-2031250?n=1

[13] http://www.debka.com/article/25613/Rushed-evacuation-of-US-nukes-from-Incirlik , http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-08-18/turkey-considers-military-cooperation-russia-us-said-move-nukes-out-turkey

[14] http://www.infowars.com/report-us-moving-nukes-closer-to-ukraine/

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