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So … Turkey is holding 50 American nukes hostage thanks to dumbarse Trump…


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Author Topic: So … Turkey is holding 50 American nukes hostage thanks to dumbarse Trump…  (Read 146 times)
Kiwithrottlejockey
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« on: October 17, 2019, 08:18:57 pm »


from The New York Times…

Trump Followed His Gut on Syria. Calamity Came Fast.

All the warnings were there. But President Trump's reliance on his instincts, and his relationships, led
him to ignore the consequences of a move that has emboldened Russia, Iran and the Islamic State.


By DAVID E. SANGER | 12:01AM EDT — Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Turkish troops and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters on Saturday near the border town of Ras al-Ain, during their assault on Kurdish-held border towns in northeastern Syria. — Photograph: Nazeer Al-Khatib/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
Turkish troops and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters on Saturday near the border town of Ras al-Ain, during their assault on Kurdish-held
border towns in northeastern Syria. — Photograph: Nazeer Al-Khatib/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.


PRESIDENT TRUMP's acquiescence to Turkey's move to send troops deep inside Syrian territory has in only one week's time turned into a bloody carnage, forced the abandonment of a successful five-year-long American project to keep the peace on a volatile border, and given an unanticipated victory to four American adversaries: Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and the Islamic State.

Rarely has a presidential decision  resulted so immediately in what his own party leaders have described as disastrous consequences for American allies and interests. How this decision happened — springing from an “off-script moment” with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, in the generous description of a senior American diplomat — probably will be debated for years by historians, Middle East experts and conspiracy theorists.

But this much already is clear: Mr. Trump ignored months of warnings from his advisers about what calamities likely would ensue if he followed his instincts to pull back from Syria and abandon America's long-time allies, the Kurds. He had no Plan B, other than to leave. The only surprise is how swiftly it all collapsed around the president and his depleted, inexperienced foreign policy team.

Day after day, they have been caught off-guard, offering up differing explanations of what Mr. Trump said to Mr. Erdogan, how the United States and its allies might respond, and even whether Turkey remains an American ally. For a while Mr. Trump said he acted because the Islamic State was already defeated, and because he was committed to terminating “endless wars” by pulling American troops out of the Middle East. By the end of the week he added 2,000 — to Saudi Arabia.

One day he was inviting Mr. Erdogan to visit the White House; the next he was threatening to “totally destroy and obliterate” Turkey's economy if it crossed a line that he never defined.

Mr. Erdogan just kept going.


President Trump with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in 2018. — Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times.
President Trump with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in 2018. — Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times.

Mr. Trump's error, some aides concede in off-the-record conversations, was entering the October 6 call under-prepared, and then failing to spell out for Mr. Erdogan the potential consequences — from economic sanctions to a contraction of Turkey's alliance with the United States and its standing in NATO. He has since threatened both, retroactively, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said later on Monday that the president had signed an executive order authorizing sanctions on individuals or associates of Turkey's government who “endanger civilians or lead to the further deterioration of peace, security and stability in northeast Syria.” But it is not clear whether Mr. Erdogan believes that poses a real risk.

The drama is nowhere near over. Out of necessity, the Kurds switched sides on Sunday, turning their backs on Washington and signing up with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, a man the United States has called a war criminal for gassing his own people. At the Pentagon, officials struggled with the right response if Turkish forces — NATO allies — again opened fire on any of the 1,000 or so Americans now preparing to retreat from their positions inside Syria. Those troops are trapped for now, since Turkey has cut off the roads; removing them may require an airlift.

And over the weekend, State and Energy Department officials were quietly reviewing plans for evacuating roughly 50 tactical nuclear weapons that the United States had long stored, under American control, at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, about 250 miles from the Syrian border, according to two American officials.

Those weapons, one senior official said, were now essentially Erdogan's hostages. To fly them out of Incirlik would be to mark the de facto end of the Turkish-American alliance. To keep them there, though, is to perpetuate a nuclear vulnerability that should have been eliminated years ago.

“I think this is a first — a country with U.S. nuclear weapons stationed in it literally firing artillery at US forces,” Jeffrey Lewis of the James Martin Center for Non-proliferation Studies wrote last week.


Residents of Akcakale, southern Turkey, celebrated through the streets after Turkish-backed Syrian fighters announced they had taken parts of the Syrian town of Tel Abyad. — Photograph: Mauricio Lima/for The New York Times.
Residents of Akcakale, southern Turkey, celebrated through the streets after Turkish-backed Syrian fighters announced they had taken
parts of the Syrian town of Tel Abyad. — Photograph: Mauricio Lima/for The New York Times.


For his part, Mr. Erdogan claims nuclear ambitions of his own: Only a month ago, speaking to supporters, he said he “cannot accept” rules that keep Turkey from possessing nuclear weapons of its own.

“There is no developed nation in the world that doesn't have them,” he said. (In fact, most do not.)

“This president keeps blindsiding our military and diplomatic leaders and partners with impulsive moves like this that benefit Russia and authoritarian regimes,” said Senator Jack Reed, the Rhode Island Democrat and long-time member of the Armed Services Committee.

“If this president were serious about ending wars and winning peace, he'd actually articulate a strategy that would protect against a re-emergence of ISIS and provide for the safety of our Syrian partners,” Mr. Reed added. “But he has repeatedly failed to do that. Instead, this is another example of Donald Trump creating chaos, undermining U.S. interests, and benefiting Russia and the Assad regime.”

The other major beneficiary is Iran, perhaps Mr. Trump's most talked-about geopolitical foe, which has long supported the Syrian regime and sought freer rein across the country.

Mr. Trump tried another defense on Monday, via Twitter. Clearly sensitive about the critique that he was abandoning a long-time ally, he wrote that “anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!”

It was another example of Mr. Trump's taking a 1930s view of how to defend the nation, ignoring the power vacuums filled by adversaries and making the case that distance is the ultimate protection. The lessons of economic interdependency, the September 11 attacks and the era of cyber-conflict suggest otherwise.


Syrian troops at the entrance to the town of Tal Tamer, on Monday. — Photograph: Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
Syrian troops at the entrance to the town of Tal Tamer, on Monday. — Photograph: Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.

As the situation continued to devolve, senior administration officials stepped forward to try to reverse the damage.

In an unscheduled appearance in the White House driveway, Vice President Mike Pence told reporters that Mr. Trump had asked Mr. Erdogan for an immediate cease-fire — part of the executive order that Mr. Pompeo announced — adding that the president had not given a “green light” for Turkish forces to invade Syria.

“The United States of America wants Turkey to stop the invasion,” Mr. Pence said, “to implement an immediate cease-fire and to begin to negotiate with Kurdish forces in Syria to bring an end to the violence.”

He said the president had directed him to lead a delegation to Turkey alongside Robert O'Brien, the president's new national security adviser, to negotiate directly with Mr. Erdogan.

The horrors that have played out with lightning speed were clearly not anticipated by Mr. Trump, who has no fondness for briefing books and meetings in the Situation Room intended to game out events two or three moves ahead. Instead, he often talks about trusting his instincts.

“My gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else's brain can ever tell me," he said late last year. He was discussing the Federal Reserve, but could just as easily have been talking foreign policy; in 2017 he told a reporter, right after his first meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, that it was his “gut feel” for how to deal with foreign leaders, honed over years in the real estate world, that guided him. “Foreign policy is what I'll be remembered for,” he said.

But in this case the failure to look around corners has blown up on him at a speed that is rare in foreign policy and national security. The closest analogue may date to 1950, during Harry Truman's administration, when Secretary of State Dean Acheson described America's new “defense perimeter” in a speech, saying it ran from southern Japan through the Philippines. That left out the Korean Peninsula, and two weeks later Joseph Stalin, the Soviet leader, appeared to have given Kim Il-sung, grandfather of the current North Korean leader, permission to launch his invasion of the South. The bloody stalemate that followed lives with the United States today.

At the time, the United States kept a token force in South Korea, akin to the one parked along the Turkish-Syrian border. And it is impossible to know whether the North Korean attack would have been launched even without Mr. Acheson's failure to warn about American action if a vulnerable ally was attacked — just as it is impossible to know if Mr. Erdogan would have sent his troops over the border if that phone call, and Mr. Trump's failure to object, had never happened.


United States military vehicles near the town of Tal Baydar on Saturday. — Photograph: Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
United States military vehicles near the town of Tal Baydar on Saturday. — Photograph: Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.

It was Mr. Trump himself who, during a presidential debate with Hillary Clinton in 2016, blamed President Barack Obama for a similar error. “President Obama and Secretary Clinton created a vacuum the way they got out of Iraq,” he said, referring to the 2011 withdrawal. “They shouldn't have been in, but once they got in, the way they got out was a disaster. And ISIS was formed.”

Even his allies see the parallel. “If I didn't see Donald Trump’s name on the tweet I thought it would be Obama's rationale for getting out of Iraq,” Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Mr. Trump's most vociferous defenders in recent years, but among his harshest Republican critics for the Syria decision, said last week.

As James F. Jeffrey, who worked for Mr. Obama as ambassador to Turkey, then to Iraq, and now serves as Mr. Trump's special envoy for Syria, noted several years ago, it is debatable whether events would have played out differently if the United States had stayed in Iraq.

“Could a residual force have prevented ISIS's victories?” he asked in a Wall Street Journal essay five years ago. “With troops we would have had better intelligence on Al Qaeda in Iraq and later ISIS, a more attentive Washington, and no doubt a better-trained Iraqi army. But the common argument that U.S. troops could have produced different Iraqi political outcomes is hogwash. The Iraqi sectarian divides, which ISIS exploited, run deep and were not susceptible to permanent remedy by our troops at their height, let alone by 5,000 trainers under Iraqi restraints.”

Mr. Trump may now be left to make the same argument about Syria: That nothing could have stopped Mr. Erdogan, that the Russians would benefit in any case, that there are other ways to push back at Iran. Perhaps history will side with him.

For now, however, he has given up most of what little leverage he had.


__________________________________________________________________________

Katie Rogers contributed reporting to this story.

David E. Sanger is a national security correspondent and a senior writer. In a 36-year reporting career for The New York Times, he has been on three teams that have won Pulitzer Prizes, most recently in 2017 for international reporting. His newest book, The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age,’ examines the emergence of cyberconflict as the primary way large and small states are competing and undercutting each other, changing the nature of global power. He is also the author of two New York Times best sellers on foreign policy and national security: The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power, published in 2009, and Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power, published in 2012. For The N.Y. Times, Mr. Sanger has served as Tokyo bureau chief, Washington economic correspondent, White House correspondent during the Clinton and Bush administrations, and chief Washington correspondent. Mr. Sanger spent six years in Tokyo, writing about the emergence of Japan as a major American competitor, and then the country's humbling recession. He wrote many of the first articles about North Korea's emerging nuclear weapons program. Returning to Washington, Mr. Sanger turned to a wide range of diplomatic and national security issues, especially issues of nuclear proliferation and the rise of cyberconflict among nations. In reporting for The Times and Confront and Conceal, he revealed the story of Olympic Games, the code name for the most sophisticated cyberattack in history, the American-Israeli effort to sabotage Iran's nuclear program with the Stuxnet worm. His journalistic pursuit of the origins of Stuxnet became the subject of the documentary “Zero Days” which made the short list of Academy Award documentaries in 2016. With his Times colleague Bill Broad, he also described, in early 2017, a parallel cybereffort against North Korea. Mr. Sanger was a leading member of the team that investigated the causes of the Challenger disaster in 1986, which was awarded a Pulitzer in national reporting the following year. A second Pulitzer, in 1999, was awarded to a team that investigated the struggles within the Clinton administration over controlling technology exports to China. He has also won the Weintal Prize for diplomatic reporting for his coverage of the Iraq and Korea crises, the Aldo Beckman prize for coverage of the presidency, and, in two separate years, the Merriman Smith Memorial Award, for coverage of national security issues. “Nuclear Jihad” the documentary that Mr. Sanger reported for Discovery/Times Television, won the duPont-Columbia Award for its explanation of the workings of the A. Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network. That coverage was also a finalist for a Pulitzer. A 1982 graduate of Harvard College, Mr. Sanger was the first senior fellow in The Press and National Security at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. With Graham T. Allison Jr., he co-teaches Central Challenges in American National Security, Strategy and the Press at the Kennedy School of Government.

• A version of this article appears in The New York Times on Tuesday, October 15, 2019, on page A1 of the New York print edition with the headline: “From the President's Gut Comes a Gut Punch”.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • Trump Says Kurds Are ‘No Angels’; Fight ‘Has Nothing to Do With Us’

 • Winners and Losers in Trump's Planned Troop Withdrawal From Syria


https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/14/world/middleeast/trump-turkey-syria.html
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« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2019, 08:21:54 pm »


__________________________________________________________________________


Those weapons, one senior official said, were now essentially Erdogan's hostages.
To fly them out of Incirlik would be to mark the de facto end of the Turkish-American alliance.
To keep them there, though, is to perpetuate a nuclear vulnerability that should have been eliminated years ago.

“I think this is a first — a country with U.S. nuclear weapons stationed in it literally firing artillery at US forces,”
Jeffrey Lewis of the James Martin Center for Non-proliferation Studies wrote last week.


__________________________________________________________________________






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Kiwithrottlejockey
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« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2019, 08:24:33 pm »


from The Washington Post…

Trump appears to confirm U.S. nukes are in Turkey, an
admission that would break with longstanding protocol


Asked about the U.S.'s reported stockpile in Turkey, Trump said, “We're confident” they're safe.
The U.S. government has never confirmed that stockpile exists.


By AARON BLAKE | 2:35PM EDT — Wednesday, October 16, 2019

President Donald J. Trump on October 16 confirmed the existence of U.S. nuclear weapons at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. — Photograph: The Washington Post.
President Donald J. Trump on October 16 confirmed the existence of U.S. nuclear weapons at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.
 — Photograph: The Washington Post.


PRESIDENT TRUMP has often said things he perhaps shouldn't have and has repeatedly disclosed sensitive information. On Wednesday, he did so again, appearing to confirm the United States has nuclear weapons in Turkey.

Trump was asked about the security of those weapons, now that Turkey has gone against U.S. wishes by invading northern Syria after Trump ordered a withdrawal of U.S. troops from the region. He didn't explicitly confirm the weapons were there, but he went along with the premise, saying “we're confident” they'll be safe “and we have a great air base there — a very powerful air base.”

U.S. government officials have long avoided disclosing or even confirming widely believed locations of U.S. nuclear weapons.

“As a matter of policy, the Defense Department does not comment on the presence of nuclear weapons in Turkey or anywhere else in Europe,” said Kingston Reif, the director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association.

“U.S. and NATO officials do not, as a matter of policy, confirm the existence, locations or numbers of tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe,” said Jessica C. Varnum, deputy director of the James Martin Center for Non-proliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

The existence of the weapons in Turkey isn't exactly a secret, though. Reif pointed out “the Air Force, in its fiscal year 2015 budget request, noted the presence of ‘special weapons’ at ‘storage sites in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey’.” Other experts noted it's not easy to hide such weapons.

In July of this year, a later-deleted document published by a NATO-affiliated body appeared to confirm nuclear weapons were being housed in those same five countries. The document from a Canadian senator for the Defense and Security Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly said the U.S. nukes were in Incirlik in Turkey.

Vipin Narang, a nuclear proliferation expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, highlighted another issue with Trump saying that “we have a great air base there.”

“Incirlik is Turkey's air base, not ours,” Narang said. “And that is essentially the problem. We store these nuclear weapons in secure vaults on a Turkish air base, where we either have to secure them under the present circumstances, or bring transport aircraft to the base, move them on a Turkish air base and then fly them out of Turkish airspace if we wanted to extract them.

“Under the present circumstances, that is not a simple logistical or security feat.”

The security of those weapons has been a growing concern this week. The New York Times reported that State Department and Energy Department officials were looking at how to remove the weapons from Turkey if the situation in the region deteriorates.

As an Air Force Times report this week showed, though, officials would still avoid confirming the locations, even if they seemed obvious:


Quote
In an interview this summer with Air Force Times on the future of Incirlik amid rising tensions with Turkey, former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James would not confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons there. But, hypothetically speaking, she said that if nuclear weapons did have to be removed from that base, it would be a complicated operation. It would require negotiations with the nation that would become the weapons' new host, James said. And it would require a great deal of logistical and security work.

If the Air Force found a new nation willing to host the nukes, James said, it would have to take “the greatest of care” in their removal and transport. If the receiving base did not have the facilities or security necessary, James said, it would require a significant construction effort. And NATO would likely be involved.

Trump in May 2017 shared highly classified information with top Russian officials in the Oval Office — information U.S. officials worried could jeopardize a valuable intelligence source. He also reportedly told the Philippine president in April 2017 that the United States had two nuclear submarines off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, according to The New York Times. Two months ago, Trump tweeted what appeared to be an image from a classified satellite or drone in Iran.

Presidents have broad authority to declassify whatever they want, but that doesn't mean the disclosures are necessarily beneficial to the U.S. government.


__________________________________________________________________________

Aaron Blake is senior political reporter for The Fix at The Washington Post. A Minnesota native, he has also written about politics for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Hill newspaper.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/10/16/trump-appears-confirm-us-nukes-are-turkey-which-would-break-with-longstanding-protocol
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