In an earthshaking Middle East development, the United States has begun secretly evacuating the tactical nuclear weapons it had stockpiled at the southern Turkish air base of Incirlik and is transporting them to US bases in Romania.
The Obama administration has thus taken another step towards folding its tents in the Middle East.
In contrast, Moscow is rapidly expanding its air force footprint in the region with a new base in Iran following its facility in Syria. Advanced bombers and fighters are stepping up operations in both countries, while Russian warships carrying Kalibr cruise missiles gather in the Mediterranean and Caspian Seas.
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that Washington decided to remove the nuclear arsenal to safety after talks between American and Turkish talks on release 1,500 US airmen serving at the base from the siege clamped down a month ago broke down. The airmen were running the US air campaign against ISIS in in Syria just 112km away.
The talks ground to a halt over Turkish insistence on assuming control of the nuclear arsenal and America’s rejection of this demand.
The 50-70 B61 tactical gravity nuclear bombs were stored in underground bunkers close to the US bombers’ air strips. Although this was not fully admitted by Washington, the US air and ground crews were held intermittently in lockdown since the President Tayyip Erdogan suppressed a military coup against him a month ago.
The deteriorations of relations between Ankara and Washington contrasted strongly with the Turkish-
Russian rapprochement, which Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin sealed in St. Petersburg on Aug.8. Since then, there have been calls for the Russian Air Force to be allowed to displace the US warplanes at Incirlik. This process has now begun.