US Nukes at Incirlik Questioned
BIA News Center / Tolga KORKUT
Opposition CHP deputy Elekdag prepares to table nuclear bombs issue at Parliament: “We don’t need them, let’s send them back”. Global BAK’s Mater: “Secret decree is still kept secret. Agreement may have been automatically extended”. The presence of 90 American nuclear bombs at the Incirlik Air Base in the Southeast Turkish province of Adana is being brought before parliament by the country’s main opposition Republic Peoples Party (CHP) deputy and former Turkish ambassador to the United States, Sukru Elekdag. In an exclusive interview with bianet last week, Elekdag said no justification could be made by civilian or military authorities to retain these weapons after the Cold War and that, in his view, their presence delivered a blow to the regional political prestige of Turkey.
Elekdag is calling on the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to explain if there is any valid military purpose in still allowing these weapons to be held in Turkish soil despite the end of the Cold War.
“In 1991 father Bush made a historical statement and said ‘there is no such threat. We are withdrawing all of our land tactical missiles in Europe.’ Then they said ‘air to surface bombs will stay for a while and we will liquidate them’. But these were all forgotten. It is only now that it’s revealed what these weapons really are. Previously it was impossible to prove this. Authorities were neither saying yes or no,” Elakdag explained.
Noting that Turkey itself was not under any threat, Elekdag said “These weapons that are under USA control are not necessary. If there is a reason, let us know. If there is not, they should be taken out of the country”.
Elekdag added, “Middle East countries are concerned over the existence of these weapons. The new strategy of the USA is a pre-emptive strategy. In other words, to strike the source of a danger it sees without waiting. This, as in Iraq, leads to disaster”.
“We do not want to Iran to be nuclear armed. This issue has three actors, the USA, Israel and Iran. There is only one way out in solving this tension,” he said. “The Middle East should become a nuclear free zone. Turkey should revitalise this draft”.
He said, however, that “it cannot support this with nuclear weapons. Being the secretary of the Islamic Conference Organisation, Turkey could take the responsibility of such a project at the level of the United Nations on a legal platform. It is difficult, but this is the only way out”.
Elekdag said that for his part, he now planned to bring the United Nations Convention to Prevent the Spread of Nuclear Weapons on the agenda of the Turkish Parliament.
“I will reveal the arbitrary way the USA is enforcing this convention. If we do not want the 21st century to b the century of disaster, we have to enforce this convention fastidiously. Otherwise, other countries will revive the nuclear armament projects that they had shelved”.
Asked whether he would work together with non-governmental organisations already active on the issue, Elekdag said “I need to consider this. I do not know what their agenda is. I need to find this out. I am not against necessary defence measures being taken. Whatever required should be done. But I do think that there is no defence justification related to nuclear bombs”.
Mater: Agreement between Pentagon and Chief of Staff
Tayfun Mater, spokesman for the Global Peace and Justice Coalition (Kuresel BAK) that has been involved in a prolonged struggle for the closure of Incirlik air base and for the Council of Ministers to disclose a secret decree pertaining to its use, regards Elekdag’s upcoming initiative as a positive development but warns “these agreements are in reality between the Pentagon and the [Turkish] Chief of General Staff office. I do not think that they will openly be brought to Parliament”.
Mater told bianet that despite this, they would continue to do everything within their capacity to force Ankara to disclose the secret decrees under which Incirlik is controlled and used.
He explained that despite going through the Right to Obtain Information and even filing cases, they could not learn of the Council of Ministers secret decree on Incirlik. “We never received a reply to our application for Information. The Council of State rejected our case for the decree to be annulled. And because this case was secret, we were not shown the decree” Mater explained.
He added that the agreement related to the base should have been extended to June 5, 2006 “but no information was leaked out. It might be that the text says somewhere that if there is no objection, the agreement is automatically extended. The original text of the decree has still not been disclosed.”
Gerger: We’ll live with nuclear bombs without rooted changes
Renown Turkish writer and one of the founding member of the Turkish Human Rights Association, Dr. Haluk Gerger said that the presence of nuclear weapons in Turkey has been an open secret since the 1950s and added “but in Turkey, as long as the situation doesn’t change in the Chief of General Staff determining policies, there will both be nuclear bombs and CIA torture planes”.
Gerger explained to bianet that US nuclear weapons were deployed to Turkey in the second half of the 1950s both under NATO agreements and bilateral agreements with the United States.
“These bombs are owned by the US. They can only be used under the ratification of the President of the USA. If Turkey does not want these weapons, it needs to review the NATO agreements and bilateral agreements with the USA. Not all NATO members accept nuclear weapons on their soil” he said.
Gerger argued, however, that Turkey did not have the political willpower to review these texts.
“The USA deployed nuclear weapons to the Middle East region first through Turkey. Then by aiding Israel and turning a blind eye. The third entry was with Iran under the Shah” Gerger said.
“The peace movement and socialist movement have always voiced their objections. But a meaningful objection never turned out. Opposition parties might have used the issue occasionally but when they came to power, they continued to support nuclear bombs. Today there is still not a serious objection. The CHP does not have a program that says ‘I’ll get the nuclear bombs out of the country if I come to power’.”
Gerger concluded that unless there were rooted changes in Turkey, the continue would continue to host nuclear bombs. “Unless there is a true democracy in Turkey, neither social opposition nor governments can influence this kind of strategic military issues. The Chief of General Staff will decide”.
Bombs “only just” on political agenda
More than a year has passed since the American National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) organisation disclosed in its February 9, 2005 dates report that there were 90 nuclear weapons at Adana’s Incirlik air base and a total of 480 throughout Europe. The original report was published by bianet on February 10.
Yet months before this, on December 9, 2004, CHP Adana deputy Tacidar Seyhanhad submitted a motion to Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul in parliament related to the presence of nuclear and chemical weapons at Incirlik base.
In his short reply to the motion on January 13, 2005, Gonul said “the answers contain information classified secret. Because of this a a response cannot be given”
Information pertaining to the bombs came to the media and political agenda only after a May 17 press statement on the issue by Greenpeace General Director Dr. Gerd Leipold.
Many NGOs including Kuresel BAK, Human Rights Association and Greenpeace have staged a number of activities in Turkey for information on the nuclear weapons in Incirlik to be disclosed and to have access to the Secret Incirlik Decree under which the base is operated.
Close to many of the world’s potential trouble spots and only a jump away from Iraq, Armenia and Iran, Incirlik Air Base is an important base in NATO’s Southern Region. As a prime staging location, Incirlik offers extensive runway facilities and aircraft shelters. It also serves as a regional storage center for war reserve materials. The heavily guarded base hosts hundreds of US personnel, US and Turkish civilian employees and contractors. (TK/II/YE)