There has been instability in Turkey for some time. On top of that, it has consistently been our most unreliable NATO ally. President Recip Tayyip Erdogan has been on a path towards authoritarian rule for several years.
He has survived nationwide protests, cracked down on the media, tried to stifle free speech by blocking access to social media a number of times and has orchestrated an effort to basically purge hundreds of jurists with Erdogan loyalists.
Last Friday’s failed coup attempt caught the United States and our European allies asleep, but it shouldn’t have. Underlying tensions have been festering for a while. Presently, some 6,000 people, including military and judicial officials, have been detained by the Erdogan Government.
Further, the Turkish President has called on the U.S. to extradite his former ally, moderate Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen.
In my book, "The New Terrorism: How to Fight It and Defeat It," I address the current situation of U.S. nuclear weapons in Turkey and the need to dismantle them. Let’s look at this from a historical perspective and in light of the failed coup attempt and the actions of the Turkish autocrat Erdogan.
As a holdover from the Cold War, the U.S. has approximately 200 non-strategic nuclear weapons deployed in Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Turkey. Reports put the number at close to 50 B-61 nuclear bombs housed in underground vaults at Incrilik Airbase in southeast Turkey.
Incrilik is an airbase used by both the Turkish Air Force and NATO. The B-61 nuclear bomb is a 700 lb. thermonuclear weapon with an explosive force of over 10 times of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
In the 1920s and 30s, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, led Turkey to be a modern, democratic and secular state, patterned after many countries in Western Europe.
Today, Turkey has a president who has long been active in Islamist circles. Erdogan, a Sunni Muslim, was active in the fundamentalist Welfare Party.
In the late 1990s, the Welfare Party was banned by Turkey’s highest court for violating the separation of religion and state, as required by the Turkish Constitution. In 2001, Erdogan established his own Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The AKP is an Islamist party. In domestic policy, Erdogan and his AKP have attempted to reverse much of the secular legacy of Ataturk. In foreign affairs, to say Erdogan’s Turkey has been an unreliable NATO ally is an understatement.
In 2012, his government provided Iran with identities of Iranians who were meeting with Israeli intelligence agents in Turkey. The information was related to Iran’s nuclear program.
This weekend, following the coup attempt, Erdogan’s government cut power to the Incrilik Airbase and local authorities halted all movements onto and off of the base. The base commander, Gen. Bekir Ercan Van, was arrested for allegedly being involved in the coup attempt.
The Erdogan government also temporarily prohibited all U.S. Air Force planes stationed there from taking off and landing.
All of this brings me to the question, Why does the United States still have close to 50 nuclear bombs in Turkey? Our nuclear weapons should be prepositioned off of American soil only in those countries that are strong, reliable and stable allies. Turkey, in the present environment and under the Erdogan regime, does not fit this criteria.
The 9/11 Commission Report said that 9/11, above else, was a failure of imagination.
Well, you don’t need imagination or outside the box thinking to know and understand that housing U.S. nuclear weapons in Turkey today is a bad idea. All you need is old-fashioned common sense, something unfortunately that our government lacks more and more of in a post 9/11 environment with terrorism, turmoil and strife all around us.
It’s time, no it’s way past time, to dismantle all of our nuclear weapons in Turkey and get them out of there now.
Van Hipp is chairman of American Defense International, Inc. (ADI), a Washington, D.C. consulting firm. He is former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, and served on the Presidential Electoral College in 1988. He is the author of "The New Terrorism: How to Fight It and Defeat It." To read more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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