With various Arab client-regimes already on board -- including Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain -- now the Americans are putting the carrot and the stick to Turkey:
Key Aide Seeks Military Pledge From Turkey
By Vernon Loeb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 3, 2002; Page A01
LONDON, Dec. 2 -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz today launched a mission to press Turkey to allow the United States to use its military bases and to provide military assistance for a possible war with Iraq. By winning a formal pledge of cooperation, Wolfowitz would complete the lineup of regional allies ready to help in an attack against the government of President Saddam Hussein.
Still putting the finishing touches on its war plans, the Pentagon badly wants authorization to launch combat aircraft and ground forces from bases in Turkey, which lies just north of Iraq. This would complement agreements already in place with Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain to the south, rounding out the array of military launching pads and forcing Iraq to defend against a two-front invasion.
Wolfowitz, who travels Tuesday to Ankara, the Turkish capital, is also expected to seek a promise from the Turkish military that it would use its own forces to assist the United States in the event President Bush decides on military action, with Turkish troops possibly helping to police refugees from northern Iraq or guard prisoners of war, U.S. officials said.
"The more support we can get from Turkey, the less likely that there will be a war and the greater the chances are of resolving this thing peacefully," said a senior Bush administration official. "If it does come to the use of force, the more support we get from Turkey, the shorter the war can be."
The new Turkish government, with a ruling party rooted in political Islam, is expected to drive a hard bargain. The country still suffers economically from sanctions placed on Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. It wants a substantial aid package, U.S. help in gaining membership in the European Union and an ironclad pledge from the United States that it will not support a Kurdish state in northern Iraq.
The U.S. officials said they believe that, with a good U.S. offer, Turkey ultimately will grant basing rights and contribute troops and other assistance to the war effort. This help is more critical than ever, according to military analysts, because Saudi Arabia is hesitant to allow the United States to launch combat troops or aircraft from Saudi bases, as it did in 1991.
"Given Turkey's record and given the importance of this relationship to both our countries, I have a certain underlying confidence that at the end of the day, we'll come to agreement," the senior administration official predicted. But he said "we're not there yet" when asked what the Bush administration was planning to offer in return.
While the administration must be patient with Turkey's new government, elected only last month, the official said, the Turks must be realistic as well. "We are developing military plans which have a certain momentum of their own," he said. "We don't have a lot of time."
Seeking to cultivate favor in Ankara, Wolfowitz called on the 15 members of the European Union to give Turkey a firm date for beginning talks on accession when they meet next week in Copenhagen. In a speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies here, Wolfowitz called exclusion of Turkey "surely unthinkable."
Analysts in Turkey said the new government there may embrace the opportunity to demonstrate cooperation with the Turkish military and the United States, seeking to dispel fears about its Islamic roots. Many leaders of the ruling Justice and Development Party were members of an Islamic government that collapsed under military pressure in 1997 after flirting with the notion of moving the NATO member into alliances with the Muslim world.
Turkey has made no secret of its concerns about a U.S.-led campaign against Iraq. The paramount fear in Ankara is that a war will result in the dismemberment of Iraq, with Kurds in the country's north looking to turn the informal autonomy they have enjoyed since 1991 into an independent state. Turkey fears that would tempt Turkish Kurds, who make up about 20 percent of a population of 67 million, to resume a separatist guerrilla war that has subsided only in the past three years.
Pentagon officials have said they believe they would be able to launch a successful invasion of Iraq without using Turkish bases. There are already 60,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in the Persian Gulf, with heavy armor and other equipment flowing in. Officials are working off two sets of war plans, only one of which includes Turkey.
In Kuwait, the Pentagon has 12,000 troops, 24 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, heavy equipment for two armored brigades and the headquarters units from the Army's V Corps and the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. Fighter aircraft operate from two Kuwaiti air bases, Al-Jaber and Ali Salem.
Dozens of combat aircraft and aerial tankers fly out of the Al Udeid air base in Qatar, the likely U.S. Central Command headquarters in a war. A new aerial command-and-control center is also nearing completion at Al Udeid, in case U.S. forces cannot use their control center in Saudi Arabia. And about 1,000 personnel from Central Command are now arriving in Qatar for an annual exercise called Internal Look, which will serve as a dry run for invasion scenarios.
The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet has its headquarters in Bahrain, and there are 3,000 U.S. military personnel stationed in Oman, where airfields and ports serve as important transshipment points for materiel flowing into the Gulf region.
But even with this solid perimeter south of Iraq, Pentagon officials want the use of Turkish bases, given a war plan that calls for Special Operations forces and airborne troops to move swiftly into northern, southern and western Iraq.
"You've got essentially a two-front war if you stage up in Turkey, so the Iraqis have got to look north and south," said Rick Raftery, a retired military intelligence officer with experience in northern Iraq. "Otherwise, they know all the firepower would be coming from the south."
When U.S. forces went to the aid of Iraqi Kurds in May 1991 in the aftermath of the Gulf War, Raftery said, they staged from bases inside Turkey.
A basing agreement with Turkey would also be critical for providing air support to those forces. Dozens of fighters are based at Incirlik, a major air base that serves as headquarters for flights patrolling the "no-fly" zone over northern Iraq. If fighter jets were limited to bases south of Iraq, they would require substantial aerial refueling to bomb targets in northern Iraq, according to retired Air Force Col. John Warden, who helped plan the air war against Iraq in 1991.
Anthony H. Cordesman, a former defense official now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, noted that 11 of 23 bases used during the Gulf War for launching combat troops and aircraft were in Saudi Arabia. This time around, Pentagon officials are not counting on those bases for combat forces. The Saudis have indicated a willingness to allow their bases to be used only for non-combat activities, command and control, search and rescue, refueling and reconnaissance flights.
"If you want intense combat operations and rapid sortie rates and you want minimal logistical problems, Turkey becomes of great value," Cordesman said. "If the only other area you're going to be operating out of is Kuwait, it does limit your ability to use surprise."