50 US nuclear bombs held hostage by Turkey
An estimated 50 US nuclear bombs are effectively being held hostage in Turkey as Washington attempts to find a diplomatic way of responding to the country’s invasion of Syria, officials are reported to have warned.
The withdrawal of American troops from northern Syria – creating a power vacuum that has allowed Turkey and Russia to move into the region and displace Washington’s Kurdish allies – has caused international outcry.
And as even his supporters accuse the White House of betraying its allies, Donald Trump has been forced to escalate his opposition to Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, threatening to “destroy” his counterpart’s economy and contract America’s alliance with Ankara.
However, the rapid pace of withdrawal and the tumultuous decline of relations between the two countries has left administration officials scrambling to find a plan for the nuclear weapons stored under American control at the shared Incirlik Air Base in south east Turkey, reports said.
The New York Times reported that officials from the State Department and Energy Department, which manages Washington’s nuclear arsenal, met at the weekend to consider how they might retrieve an estimated fifty tactical nuclear weapons held at the site.
One official told the paper the bombs were now effectively Mr Erdogan’s hostages. It is feared that removing the weapons could signal the end of relations between the Nato allies, while leaving them in place could put the weapons of mass destruction at risk.
The conundrum comes just a month after Mr Erdogan said it was “unacceptable” that Turkey was not allowed its supply of the weapons under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty the country signed in 1980.
A phone call between Mr Trump and Mr Erdogan last week, and the US president’s subsequent decision to withdraw from Syria after clearing out Isis-held territory, is said to have been described as an “off script” moment by American diplomats.