By Jonathan Power
July 26th 2016
The Incirlik air base in southeast Turkey- from which U.S. pilots launch bombing raids on ISIS forces in Syria – is home to about 50 B-61 hydrogen bombs. That makes it NATO’s largest nuclear storage facility.
Each bomb has a yield of up to 170 kilotons, nearly a dozen times more powerful than the weapon that destroyed Hiroshima. The bombs are stored in underground vaults within aircraft shelters that in turn are protected by a security perimeter.
Last week Incirlik was in the headlines because it appears it was one of the command centres of the attempted coup, meant to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
After the coup had been put down the commander of Incirlik was arrested and charged with complicity in the overthrow attempt.
Jonathan Marshall in Consortium News, who has been researching this year the inner workings of the base, reports, “The security of the bombs is premised on them being defended by loyal NATO forces. In the case of Incirlik that loyalty proved uncertain at best. Power to the base was cut after mutinous troops used a tanker plane from the base to refuel F-16s that menaced Ankara and Istanbul”.
He goes on in his latest report to observe, “One can easily imagine a clique of Islamist officers in a future coup seizing the nuclear bombs as a bargaining chip with Ankara and Washington or, worse yet, to support radical insurgents in the region.”
Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear proliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, asks, “Does it seem like a good idea to station American nuclear weapons at an air base commanded by someone who may have just helped bomb his own country’s presidential palace?”Read More »