Turkish officials are preventing access to and from the air base until they complete “anti-coup” operations effectively leaving America’s nuclear arsenal in the hands of the same Erdogan regime that just accused Washington of masterminding the coup.
Movement in and out of the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey was blocked on Saturday by local military authorities, a distressing sign for the future of NATO which stores US tactical nuclear weapons at the base.
“Local authorities are denying movements on to and off of Incirlik Air Base. The power there has also been cut,” the US consulate in Adana said in a message. “Please avoid the air base until normal operations have been restored.”
The closure of the airbase also led to a halt in US air strikes against Daesh. CNN Turk was told by sources that Turkish authorities did make an exception for US aircraft that had already been deployed on mission before the airspace was shut and allowed them to land at the base for refueling.
Turkish officials closed the airspace to complete “anti-coup” operations at the base, where some of the servicemen are suspected of supporting the failed Friday night military coup. Turkish officials have rounded up over 2,800 soldiers as well as at least 2,745 judges who they claim were sympathetic to the coup. Those individuals will now face prosecution for treason.
The presence of the US nuclear weapons arsenal in Incirlik Air Base was further complicated on Saturday when Turkish Labor Minister Süleyman Soylu alleged that the United States was behind the failed coup attempt.
“The US is behind the coup attempt. A few journals that are published there [in the US] have been conducting activities for several months. For many months we have sent requests to the US concerning Fethullah Gulen. The US must extradite him,” said Soylu.
US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a fierce condemnation of the allegations calling them harmful to bilitaral relations between the two countries, a sign of a potentially brewing diplomatic row between the two long-time NATO allies.
US tactical nuclear weapons now rest in the hands of a Turkish government willing to openly accuse the United States of seeking its demise under the leadership of an aggressive autocratic ruler who fancies himself the next Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
The instability of Turkey which faces pressures from the 2.75 million Syrian refugees seeking asylum, Kurdish opposition, Daesh terrorists, and a military that has shown a willingness to turn on the country’s president may force NATO to ultimately pull its nuclear weapons stockpile from Incirlik airbase before the country descends into chaos.