Erdogan Holds NATO Powers to Siege at Incirlik Prior to Kicking Them out
Turkey’s invasion of Syria on Aug. 24 heavily overshadowed the continuing off-and-on siege crisis besetting US personnel at Incilik air base in the south (as first disclosed by DEBKA Weekly 721 on August 18).
In the early hours of its army’s thrust into northern Syria, Ankara was careful to paint it as a military operation against the Islamic State for which the US was providing aerial support.
“The US air coalition against ISIS is taking part in the action,” Ankara announced.
In actual fact, not a single US airplane took off from Incirlik or any other US air base in the Middle East to assist the Turks. US personnel remain pinned down there by a Turkish military presence hovering too close for comfort, ever since President Tayyip Erdogan crushed the July 15 coup to unseat him.
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources now reveal that the American personnel virtually under lock and key at Incirlik have good company: German air force personnel are sharing the Turkish siege – in their case, on another pretext.
A delegation of high-ranking German officials was refused permission to visit the base in July, until “Germany takes the necessary steps,” they were told by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
He did not say what steps, but Berlin was left in no doubt that Ankara was holding its personnel hostage against the German Bundestag’s amendment of a resolution, which branded as genocide the 1915 massacre of millions of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
Cavusoglu explained that people who "manipulate" Turkish history "in an unfair manner" would not be allowed on the base.
Incirlik houses about 240 German troops, a refueling tanker and six German Tornado surveillance jets, Berlin’s contribution to the NATO war effort against ISIS. A number of German lawmakers are demanding their evacuation from the Turkish base and relocation in another country.
For now, they are inaccessible and virtual prisoners. Even the military attaché at the German embassy was refused permission to visit them. Their only links with the outside world go through Turkish liaison officers stationed at Incirlik, but no German officers, pilots or troops are permitted to leave the base – even for medical treatment.
Germany’s European Affairs Minister Michael Roth who visited Ankara this week spoke of first steps toward reconciliation. But the situation at Incirlik tells the opposite story.
According to our military sources, Berlin is not making a fuss about this – partly to avoid worsening relations further, but also in view of Washington’s seeming inertia on the incarceration of its own 2,500 personnel at Incirlik, going on now for six weeks, and the passivity of NATO headquarters in Brussels over the scandalous mistreatment of two of its members by a third.
Western officials see no light ahead in the murky US, German and NATO relationships with the Erdogan regime and predict that it will end in the eventual removal of all NATO forces from Incirlik.
This would be followed by the evacuation from Izmir of NATO’s Allied Land Command (LANDCOM), which provides support and interoperability to all NATO ground force. Also at stake is the important role played by Turkey in NATO’s integrated ballistic missile defense system. An American early warning radar station became operational at Kürecik in southern Turkey in 2012, for the critical function of detecting, tracking and intercepting incoming missiles from Iran.