Balkans: March 11, 2003
Despite the Turkish Parliament's waffling on allowing American combat troops to be based inside it's country, a 15-page Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) allows a logistics base to be set up outside the town of Kiziltepe under a separate deal that authorized the U.S. military to begin preparing ports and air bases for the arrival of combat troops.
A small U.S. army convoy of ambulances, trucks and fuel-haulers left the town of Iskenderun in southeast Turkey on March 9, for the forward-operating base only 100 miles from the Iraqi border. The compound may serve as a logistics base for 62,000 U.S. troops, if Turkey allows the United States to use its territory to launch a northern front against Iraq in a war.
The Kiziltepe logistics operation is run by about 3,500 U.S. troops and a Turkish mechanized infantry unit, located only three kilometers away, is apparently pulling security for the area. The base was once a grain refinery and warehouse complex, only a few miles from a small civilian airport and just off the main road to the Iraqi border.
Ultimately, American logistics bases would also be established near or in the towns of Mardin, Dicle, Oyali, Nusaybin, Gaziantep, Oguzeli, Birecik, Sanliurfa, and Viransehir. Sanliurfa would probably become a refueling site for air operations.
The Americans are renting land, warehouses, factories, hotels, gas stations, and anything else available.
The locals now love the Americans and their tourist dollars. Even the brother of an opposition CHP [Republican People's Party] deputy from Mardin who voted against the war authorization bill in the parliament has rented to the Americans his cotton gin factory for $40,000 per month. The factory is to be used as an arms and ammunition depot. One local businessman told the Turkish press that "anyone coming across an American takes him to his land and warehouse. Business is very bad; the economy of the region has been paralyzed".
Mardin looks like it will become the American headquarters. The Mardin Airport in the Kiziltepe District is 190 km from the Habur Border Gate (into Iraq). Of these 190 km, 180 km is on the E-24 Highway. The ancient "Silk Road" runs parallel to the Syrian border through the Kiziltepe District and is considered a high-speed avenue of approach. Kiziltepe is a junction point from which soldiers and materials can be sent both by road and by railroad from Iskenderun.
The MOU notes that American preparatory activities will not place an economic burden on Turkey and that the immovable property to be built by the US Army will become Turkish property. Turkey, when it deems necessary, will have the right to invite the US personnel to leave the country or to expel personnel without having to give a reason. Meanwhile, US soldiers will not be able to circulate in uniform or be armed outside these base areas.
The Turkish army showed its true colors on March 5, coming out strongly in support of the government and its plan to allow US troops into Turkey for an Iraqi invasion. Any wonder why? "Hey, G.I.!!" - Adam Geibel