Could Islamist Turkey Seize U.S. Nukes?
As if the world was not fucked up enough,
here is yet another Dr. Stangelove moment.
(Los Angeles Times) - Feb. 14, 1979, less than one month after the shah of Iran’s exile, the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was overrun by Iranian militants. Within hours, it was returned to U.S. hands. Now on notice that our diplomats were stationed on a vulnerable outpost in a sea of anti-Americanism, the Carter administration considered, but rejected, closing the embassy. In October, President Carter permitted the shah – despised by Iranians and the regime that replaced his – to enter the United States.
Days later, Iranians climbed the embassy gates again, took the Americans there hostage and demanded the shah’s return, beginning a 444-day crisis.
There are no do-overs in history, but there are lessons. The 1979 hostage crisis should have taught us the importance of proactively responding to obvious threats and removing vulnerable targets — a lesson that should be applied now if there are U.S. nuclear weapons based in Turkey.
After a faction within the Turkish military tried to overthrow the Turkish government last month, one of the many arrested for his alleged role in the attempted coup was a commanding officer at the Incirlik Air Base. That base — according to numerous media reports — is a major NATO installation hosting one of the largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons in Europe.
The article calls U.S. base at Incirlik "Europe". Far from it. The base is
deep into the Middle East and only a few miles from Syria. If nukes
are located that close to anarchy . . . well, you fill in the blanks.
What if the Turkish base commander at Incirlik had ordered his troops surrounding the perimeter of the base to turn their guns on the U.S. soldiers that reportedly guard U.S. nuclear storage bunkers there?
What if anti-American Turkish protesters, believing the U.S. was behind the coup plot and that it was harboring the coup’s leader (ominously reminiscent of how Iranians felt about America and the shah 37 years ago) decided to march on Incirlik chanting anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans (as has actually happened) and taken over the base?
Leaving aside the coup, what if Islamic State were to attack Incirlik? In March, the Pentagon reportedly ordered military families out of southern Turkey, primarily from Incirlik, due to terrorism-related security concerns.
While we’ve avoided disaster so far, we have ample evidence that the security of U.S. nuclear weapons stored in Turkey can change literally overnight. Now fully aware of the dangers, the Obama administration should remove any remaining nuclear weapons from Turkey – and the next president should remove all U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe.
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Article by Steve Andreasen was the director for defense policy and arms control on the White House National Security Council staff from 1993 to 2001.