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

    Vietnam Mulls Tough Measures for ‘Misbehaving’ Chinese Tourists

    Move comes after footage surfaced online of Chinese travelers harassing a banana hawker in Da Nang

    Pakistan Social Media Star's Honor Killing Fuels Debate

    Qandeel Baloch's murder puts spotlight on deadly tradition and other mistreatment of women

    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.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    X
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.
    Video

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.
    Video

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora