US-Nato Incirlik airbase in Turkey surrounded by 7,000 police

Developing Just Leadership

Crescent International

Shawwal 26, 1437 2016-07-31

Daily News Analysis

by Crescent International

More than 7,000 heavily armed police surrounded the Incirlik airbase in Adana, southwest Turkey amid speculation that it was meant to thwart another coup attempt. The police came with armored personnel carriers as well as dump trucks.

Istanbul, crescent-online.net
Sunday July 31, 2016, 10:57 DST

More than 7,000 heavily armed police surrounded the Incirlik airbase in Adana, southwest Turkey amid speculation that it was meant to thwart another coup attempt. The police came with armored personnel carriers as well as dump trucks.

It was a “security check”, said Turkey’s EU affairs minister in a twitter message but that has not staunched speculation because the US chief of staff, Generl Joseph Dunford also arrived in Turkey today (Sunday July 31). He is visiting Ankara and the Incirlik airbase.

On Thursday (July 28) thousands of supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan rallied in Adana, a city of 1.7 million where Incirlik base is located, demanding that it be shut down. The base also houses some US 90 nuclear weapons.

There is much anger in Turkey over the attempted coup of July 15 that the government has accused the US-based self-styled cleric Fethullah Gulen of orchestrating. Ankara has demanded his extradition, a request Washington has so far rebuffed.

Turkish media reports say that the Incirlik air base was one of the operational commands of the coup plotters. The base commander, General Bekir Ercan Van as well as 149 other senior commanders have been arrested on treason charges. The general had apparently sought political asylum in the US, a request Washington is believed to have turned down for fear that it would expose its involvement in the Turkish coup plot.

Turkish authorities have claimed that one of the F-16 planes used in the failed coup attempt had been refueled at Incirlik. Further, that the coup plotters had coordinated their moves with American military personnel at the base.

The US government has ordered family members of all diplomatic staff out of Turkey. It has also issued an advisory against travel to the country.

Should Turkey close the air base, it would be a major blow to Nato operations in the region. Incirlik base is used primarily for spying operations against Russia. President Erdogan is due to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on August 9. Great importance is attached to the forthcoming meeting because of rapidly changing developments in the region.

The meeting was announced prior to the coup attempt when Erdogan formally apologized to Russia for the downing of its plane over Syria last November. The Turkish pilot involved in that attack—a Gulenist—has been arrested.

On Saturday (July 30), Erdogan told the TV station, A-Haber, that the government plans to shut down all military schools and will instead have a new defence university. Further, he wants to have commanders of the three branches of the Turkish armed forces under the direct command of the defense minister.

What was more revealing was that Erdogan wants the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and military chief of staff to report directly to him. This would require a constitutional amendment that must have the support of two-third majority in parliament. For this, he would need the support of the opposition parties but it seems, all opposition parties that also denounced the coup, may be on board.

Erdogan expressed displeasure with the information the MIT chief Hakan Fidan had provided on the night of the coup. While Fidan is his handpicked choice, Erdogan felt he had failed in his task. “There was unfortunately in all of this a serious intelligence failure,” the Turkish president said.

The state-run Anadolu news agency reported today that nearly 1,400 armed forces personnel among them a number of senior military officials have been dismissed so far.

Altogether, some 60,000 people in the military, judiciary, civil service and schools have been detained, removed or suspended over suspected Gulen links.

Erdogan reacted angrily to the July 28 comments by General Joseph Votel, head of the US Central Command, that arresting Turkish military commanders could damage the two countries' relations. He said: "We have certainly had relationships with a lot of Turkish leaders - military leaders in particular. I am concerned about what the impact is on those relationships as we continue."

The Turkish president hit back. "It's not up to you to make that decision. Who are you? Know your place," Erdogan said on Friday. "Instead of thanking this nation that quashed the coup in the name of democracy, on the contrary you are taking sides with the coup plotters," Erdogan said, adding, "Besides, the coup plotter is in your country anyway. You can never convince my people otherwise."

Turkish-US relations, already tense for months, are likely to head further south. Major realignments are expected in the region in the wake of the failed coup. We have not heard the last of it yet.

END

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