Turkish FM Abdullah Gul: Ankara will not be drawn into any US or Israel military operations against Iran
The Dubai newspaper Al Bayan (out on April 30) quotes the Turkish leader as disclosing that, during her visit to Ankara last Tuesday, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice requested the use of the Incirlik air base for an American strike against Iranian nuclear installations. She was said to have offered Turkey in return a nuclear reactor for electricity, but was turned down.
debkafile‘s military sources add: Washington’s original request was for permission to build a new air base in eastern Turkey between Lake Van and the Iranian border. From there, US bombers could have reached nuclear targets situated in northern Iran where most of its nuclear sites are thought to be concentrated.
In particular, they could have hit the top secret plant under construction at Neyshabour – first disclosed by debkafile on April 15 – to run 155,000 centrifuges, enough to enrich uranium for 3-5 nuclear bombs a year.
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This was the second time in three years that the Turks have spurned an American request to use its bases for attacking a Middle East neighbor. Ankara’s refusal of a second front for the US-led Iraq invasion in 2003 delayed Saddam Hussein’s overthrow by more than a month.
Turkey’s rationale this time is motivated by five factors:
1. Ankara does not believe the US will go through with military action against Iran.
2. Gul says that with 165 nuclear sites scattered over Iran, its program is well nigh indestructible.
3. Ankara perceives the Bush administration’s domestic situation as too shaky to undertake an effective military attack on Iran. The Erdogan government believes the Republican party faces defeats in the mid-term elections at the end of the year.
4. Turkey has no intention of joining an American-Israeli military collaboration against Iran, or following the example of Pakistan and India in complying with Washington’s demands.
5. Turkish actions against the radical Kurdish PKK rebel strongholds in Northern Iraq are raising tensions in relations Ankara-Washington relations. Especially resented is the reciprocal assistance understanding Turkey and Iran have concluded to help each fight the Iraq-based Turkish PKK and the anti-Tehran People’s Mujaheedeen. Both Turkey and Iran have massed forces on their borders with northern Iraq. Turkey complains that its requests to Washington to help root the PKK out of its bases in northern Iraq were greeted with the response that violence in other parts of Iraq were the priority of US force.
Rice during her visit called on Ankara to refrain from “unilateral action” against the Kurdish rebels in Iraq.