Balkans: February 21, 2003


Given the reported logistics preparations on the ground, all thats missing is the political deal permitting US ground forces to operate from Turkish bases in the event of an attack on Saddam Husseins Iraqi regime. Turkey is mining the process, both politically and economically. Its no secret the Turkish government wanted Saddam removed in 1991. UN sanctions on Iraq have hurt Turkeys economy for over a decade, so Turkey has paid a price in the slow war that has continued since 1991. In a real sense, Turkey has been an active participant in that slow war since US and British aircraft enforcing the northern No Fly Zone fly from Turkish airbases. Security assurances are part of the political deal Turkey wants. The new Turkish government also wants to look tough domestically. Hard negotiations and a hard bargain with the US has a domestic political payoff for the new government led by the Justice and Development. That noted, Turkish sources quoted Prime Minister Abdllah Gul as saying that the US is Turkeys strategic ally (meaning most important ally) and this issue (basing) will be resolved in the coming days."

Western sources report that five ships carrying equipment for the US Army's 4th Mech Infantry Division are near the Turkish seaport of Iskenderun (Alexandretta), waiting for the okay to unload. Thats only the first pulse. Another three-dozen supply ships are in the logistics pipeline. The Turkish parliament has reserved the right to approve any final agreement. (Austin Bay)




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