News / Middle East

    Analysts: Turkey Unlikely to Follow Through on Threat to Close Coalition Airbase

    U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter jets (foreground) are pictured at Incirlik airbase in the southern city of Adana, Turkey, Dec. 11, 2015.
    U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter jets (foreground) are pictured at Incirlik airbase in the southern city of Adana, Turkey, Dec. 11, 2015.

    A top Turkish official said last week that Ankara may consider closing the Incirlik Air Base, which the U.S. uses as the major hub for U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.

    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s chief adviser Seref Malkoc told Bugun newspaper that Turkey could act if the U.S. does not change its stance against the Kurds.

    But such a move would only escalate what has already become a major diplomatic crisis, analysts say. It also could cripple Western and Turkish efforts against Islamic State (IS) as the U.S. military operation would struggle to find a place elsewhere in the region, they say.

    Robert Pearson, a former U.S. Ambassador to Ankara, told VOA that the consequences of banishing the U.S. from Incirlik would be serious.

    “It would produce a major crisis. There would be degrees of reactions by Washington depending on restrictions that Turkey might impose on the use of the base."

    “Closing Incirlik would bring Turkish-American relations to a new low,” Pearson added. “Americans would interpret such a move as an attempt to bully the U.S., and the reaction in the U.S. Congress would be very negative.”

    Importance of Incirlik

    The U.S.-led coalition has conducted hundreds of missions against IS from Incirlik since Ankara gave the green light for its use in September last year. The number of American military forces in Incirlik has grown to 2,500 from 1,300 before the operation began.

    "This is a very important location on the tip of the spear," Defense Secretary Ash Carter told U.S. troops when he visited Incirlik in December.

    Turkey and the U.S. have tightened cooperation in recent months in the fight against IS. The U.S. has helped Turkey to seal its borders.

    A Pentagon spokeswoman told VOA that Ankara has not conveyed any plans to change operations at Incirlik.

    “We haven't heard this from the Turkish government. U.S. and coalition aircraft continue operations out of Incirlik. This access increases our operational reach and flexibility to target IS,” she said.

    If the Turks follow through on closing Incirlik, it would be detrimental to the coalition efforts against IS, former diplomat Pearson said.

    “In terms of bringing peace in Syria, restricting the use of Incirlik would neither be in the U.S. nor Turkish interest,” Pearson said.

    Alternatives

    Cengiz Aktar, a political scientist from Bahcesehir University in Istanbul, told VOA that the U.S., if forced, could eventually find a new base to strike IS.
    “The U.S. military would relocate to Iraqi Kurdistan, [the United Arab] Emirates or in the future, when the time comes, even to Syria,” he said.

    Kurdish forces in Syria have recently extended a runway at an airstrip in an agricultural area that would be large enough for coalition planes to land. The plans for the airstrip are for humanitarian aid and military supplies for U.S-backed Kurdish and Arab forces, Kurdish commanders told VOA recently.

    'Taking a pulse'

    But so far, there has been little indication Turkey will act on the Incirlik threats.
    Erdogan downplayed the comments of his adviser Malkoc, saying Incirlik’s fate was for the government to decide. And there was no mention by Malkoc of asking other coalition partners flying from the base to leave.

    But Ali Akel, a journalist-commentator from Turkey, said that Malkoc did not act independently.

    “They were probably taking a pulse,” he said of the Erdogan administration. “They may have wanted to see what kind of reactions they would get to an extremely strong statement like that.”

    Akel said he doubted that Ankara’s threat to close the base would change U.S. policy toward the Kurds.

    “I believe that, as far as Washington is concerned, the Incirlik base is not a bargaining chip,” he said.

    Soner Cagaptay, a Turkey expert at the Washington Institute, said closing Incirlik would only bring the U.S closer to the Kurds – the opposite of what Turkey wants.

    The U.S. would look for other allies, including PYD and Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), who can step in and take Turkey’s place, he said.

    The “rupture in U.S-Turkish relations,” Cagaptay said, would only leave Turkey more vulnerable politically and militarily.

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Igor from: Turkey
    February 23, 2016 11:27 PM
    Turkey is clinging on to NATO as a parasite. So it is unnatural for it to leave it now. So Turkey's statement will not come true. Without NATO Turkey dare not do any harm to other neighbour countries! To Turkey, NATO is its scapegoat.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora