Putin Wants to Post Russian Warplanes at Incirlik and Other US Mid-East Air Bases
While President Barack Obama lobbies Moscow to partner the US campaign against Al Qaeda’s Syrian arm, the rebel Nusra Front, Russia President Vladimir Putin is badgering Obama to give Russian bombers space at the US air base of Incirlik in southern Turkey.
On 4 July, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu conceded in an interview with Russian TRT channel, “We will cooperate with everybody who is fighting Islamic State. Ankara has opened the Incirlik airbase to all those wishing to join the active fight. Why not cooperate with Russia in the same manner? Turkey is ready for such cooperation. Terrorism is our common enemy. Joint efforts are important to avoid negative incidents among sides fighting ISIS,” the Turkish minister said.
But Turkey’s permission for the Russians to use the strategic base, and so seal their reconciliation, was not much use, DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources report, because it was instantly vetoed by Obama.
Washington informed Moscow and Ankara that there was no way the US would share its air facilities with the Russian air force anywhere in the Middle East.
He acted on the strength of a warning from his intelligence advisers that opening Incirlik to the Russian air force would pave the way for Russian airplanes to spread out into Israeli and Iraqi air bases as well.
Several months ago, Haider al Abadi, the Iraqi Prime Minister, was asked by Moscow to permit Russian airplanes to use the Habbaniyah aka Al Taqaddum air base in central Iraq, approximately 74 kilometers west of Baghdad. This is the US air force’s main base in Iraq.
In his talks with Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Moscow on June 6, Putin also raised a request for the use of Israeli air force bases. The request was repeated on July 1, when Yossi Cohen, the head of the Israeli Mossad, visited Moscow (more about which in a separate story in this issue).
Israel has not yet given the Russians an answer, but its willingness to discuss it means that the request was not rejected out of hand.
Since the US air force has a presence in nearly all of Israel’s air bases, Putin appears to be trying to get a foot through the door for the Russian air force in every Middle East facility used by the US air force, (See map).
To promote this aim, the Russian Navy announced on July 3, that the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, is to be deployed in the eastern Mediterranean Sea opposite Syrian shores.
In October, the aircraft carrier will begin to carry out strikes against terrorists in Syria – and especially against ISIS. On the ship’s decks are 15 Su-33 and MiG-29K/KUB bombers and fighters and 10 Ka-52K, Ka-27 and Ka-31 helicopters.
Putin is clearly capitalizing on the war against ISIS to establish an important Russian air force foothold in the Middle East.