Turkey ‘could kick US out of Incirlik, Kurecik military bases in S-400 row’

Turkey ‘could kick US out of Incirlik, Kurecik military bases in S-400 row’
A US Air Force Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker touches down at Incirlik.
By bne IntelliNews July 24, 2019

If Washington slaps sanctions on Turkey over its acquisition of Russian S-400 air defence systems, the US use of two strategically vital military bases, Incirlik and Kurecik, could be at risk, the country’s foreign minister has suggested, Stars and Stripes reported on July 23.

“We are currently running the process, whether it’s Incirlik, Kurecik or other issues,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was cited as telling Turkish TV news channel TGRT Haber. “If America has very negative steps toward us, if there are sanctions or further steps, we will have answers to America.”

Cavusoglu did not further elaborate, but he dismissed concerns that the dispute with Washington could eventually result in Turkey being forced out of Nato.

“If America has a hostile attitude towards us—as we have told them, we have no secrets—we take the countersteps,” Cavusoglu added, however, saying: “It’s not a threat. It’s not a bluff.”

Incirlik has been a hub for operations in the Middle East dating back to the early days of the Cold War. Nuclear watchdogs say around 50 US nuclear bombs are stored at the base. It has played an important role in operations against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, although the US pursuit of the terrorist and militia group just outside Turkey’s borders has led to bitter disagreements with Ankara due to the Pentagon’s strategy of arming Kurdish groups in the fight. Turkey sees them as an insurgent threat.

Mountaintop radar
A US radar on a mountaintop in Kurecik has a key role in the operation of Nato’s ballistic missile defence network.

In 2017, Germany pulled its troops out of Incirlik because of diplomatic disputes with Turkey. It transferred them to Jordan.

In response to the S-400 purchase, the US has kicked Turkey out of the F-35 fighter jet programme, ending its plans to acquire more than 100 of the stealth aircraft.

Washington has also warned it could impose economic sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). But President Donald Trump has so far been equivocal on the issue.

Turkish companies were contracted to make more than 900 parts of the F-35. That supply chain is now to transition from Turkish to mainly US factories. The US has estimated that Turkey will lose more than $9bn in projected work share because of its expulsion from the F-35 fighter jet programme.