After Russia’s short-lived air campaign out of Iran’s Hamedan Air Base, Turkey’s prime minister has said that the Russian Air Force could possibly operate out of Turkey’s Incirlik base, where US and NATO forces currently are stationed, “if necessary.“
Iran cut Russia’s engagement at Hamedan short after they demonstrated a “kind of show-off and ungentlemanly attitude” in publicizing the event, according to Iran’s defence minister, after Moscow released televised video of bombs dropping from Tu-22s over Syria.
Now, a Russian senator, Igor Morozov, told a state-run media outlet that “it just remains to come to an agreement with Erdogan that we get the NATO base Incirlik as our primary air base … You’ll see, the next base will be Incirlik.”
For NATO, it seems such a move would be untenable.
“In 2014 we suspended all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia following Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea. This decision was reconfirmed at the NATO Summit in Warsaw in July 2016,” a NATO official told Business Insider.
However, Incirlik is not a NATO base.
“Incirlik Air Base is a Turkish airbase and any foreign nation’s operations from there would need to be coordinated with the Turkish government,” an official from US Army Europe told Business Insider.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden, who is visiting Turkey on Wednesday, remarked that Syrian Kurds would need to withdraw from the area immediately across the Turkish border in Syria, back across the Euphrates, in order to receive US support.
Ankara, for its part, views the Kurdish YPG as a terrorist organisation, and immediately set out on a sweeping military campaign into Syria, unlike any seen from them before, once the Kurds started operations towards taking the ISIS-held border city of Jarablus. For the US, however, Syrian Kurds have been some of the most effective allies on the ground.
Biden also said he was confident that the rule of law would prevail in Turkey in regards to the failed coup attempt, after which the government, media, and military were purged of thousands of employees, with tens of thousands arrested.
Yet, according to Amnesty International, “the coup attempt unleashed appalling violence and those responsible for unlawful killings and other human rights abuses,” a far cry from the “rule of law” heralded by Biden.
NATO and EUCOM officials did not respond to inquires about the impact of a possible Russian presence at Incirlik. For now, it seems the US may be toeing Turkey’s line to possibly prevent Russia, which has different objectives in Syria, from setting up camp at Incirlik.
Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said at a press briefing on Tuesday that the US focuses on fighting ISIS in Syria, whereas Russia’s focus is on supporting the Assad regime, which often leads to civilian casualties.
“Aleppo is a perfect example of that, where you still see strikes hitting civilian targets and certainly moderate opposition targets. And that is not helping the overall situation in Syria.”
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