US intensifying plans to move military assets from Incirlik to Greece

A U.S. Air Force (USAF) C-5 Galaxy Outsize Cargo Transport Aircraft lands at Incirlik air base in Adana, Turkey, August 10, 2015. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 30 September 2020

US intensifying plans to move military assets from Incirlik to Greece

  • The US is considering Souda Bay on the Greek island of Crete as an alternative to Incirlik
  • Erdogan has also threatened to kick the US military off Incirlik air base if Congress imposes sanctions on Turkey

NEW YORK: The US is exploring plans to relocate some of its important assets from the Incirlik air base in Turkey to Greece.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will discuss such proposals on his visit to Souda Bay, a US naval facility on the northern shores of the Geek island of Crete.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee for Europe, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Jonson, had already mentioned earlier in September that the US is considering Souda Bay as an alternative to Incirlik.

Jonson told the Washington Examiner that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “disturbing” foreign policy has spurred American officials to intensify preparations to withdraw from Incirlik.

“It’s very concerning, which is one of the reasons (we) certainly are improving our military cooperation with Greece ... beefing up our presence in Souda Bay, because our presence, quite honestly, in Turkey is certainly threatened,” said Jonson.

Pompeo’s visit to Greece, the second to the region this month, comes as tensions in the eastern Mediterranean are at an all-time high between Greece and Cyprus on the one hand, and Turkey on the other.

Last year, Ankara signed a maritime accord with Libya’s Government of National Accord and sent its vessels, accompanied by the military, to begin gas exploration operations in areas of the Mediterranean that Greece considers part of its economic zone.


Disputes over rights to energy resources have raised concerns that they could escalate into open conflict.

The rebasing plans come at a time when Turkey has become an “increasingly unreliable NATO ally and partner to the US,” Paul Gadalla, a Washington DC-based analyst focused on the eastern Mediterranean who worked at the Carnegie Middle East Center, told Arab News.

Erdogan decided last year, against strong objections from American and other NATO allies, to buy the sophisticated Russian S-400 air defense system.

“It’s unprecedented for a NATO member to make such a big weapons purchase from basically an enemy country,” said Gadalla.


Erdogan has also threatened to kick the US military out of the Incirlik air base if Congress imposes sanctions on Turkey for its purchase of Russian weapons.

“Pompeo is now telling Erdogan, ‘You know what? If you want to kick us out, we have an alternative’,” said Gadalla.

“Greece is more than willing and prepared to take on the role of the new, reliable partner. The Greeks are looking for a way to gain more diplomatic leverage over Turkey. They know Turkey wouldn’t attack US troops in Greece.”

For a decade, Greece had been mired in an economic crisis. It had a far-left government that was at loggerheads with the EU.

Now, Gadalla said, “Athens is really trying to bolster its reputation and prove that it’s a stable force in the eastern Mediterranean. It’s also looking for diplomatic support to protect its energy and geopolitical interests. Greece is also looking to expand its ties with the US in hopes of getting new weapons to revamp its military.”

He added: “The US, for its part, sees a major opportunity in Greece as well. As the country is in the process of privatizing its ports, the US is trying to limit China from buying those ports.”

The Chinese already own a controlling stake in the Port of Piraeus in Athens, one of the busiest Mediterranean ports.

China and Russia have been pushing to gain more influence in the region. Their endeavors are likely to intensify to fill the void that would be left by a possible American withdrawal from Incirlik.

Taking over the air base would “give Russia an even bigger bridgehead in the eastern Mediterranean to increase its presence,” said Gadalla.


Palestinians should support candidates ‘based on issues not ethnicity’

Updated 20 min 53 sec ago

Palestinians should support candidates ‘based on issues not ethnicity’

  • Newman came within 2,000 votes of unseating Dan Lipinski
  • The 3rd Congressional District has been held by a Democrat since 1975 and is overwhelmingly Democratic

CHICAGO: Most Arab-Americans in an Illinois congressional district race chose to support an American candidate who supported Arab and Palestinian rights over a Palestinian Arab-American candidate they said could not win the election, the spokesman for the winner said on Wednesday.

Shadin Maali, whose family originates from Beitunia, Palestine near Ramallah, said she agreed to become the spokesperson for Marie Newman over the candidacy of Palestinian American videographer Rashad “Rush” Darwish because Darwish could not win and Newman could.

Maali, who serves as Newman’s campaign chairwoman and spokesperson, said Newman sought Arab-American support, embracing many of the community’s political concerns. Newman, she said, listened to the community and included them in her campaign. That support, she said, helped to unseat Congressman Dan Lipinski, an entrenched eight-term conservative Democrat who had marginalized Arab-American issues and supported many anti-Palestinian congressional bills.

“A representative, if they are going to represent our district, he needs to align with our values. If he wants our support, he needs to align with our values, which are not radical values,” Maali said during an appearance on “The Ray Hanania Show” on Detroit’s WNZK AM 690 and US Arab Radio network, which is sponsored by Arab News newspaper every Wednesday morning.

“We support human rights. To support civil rights. To support justice. The fact that he (Lipinski) didn’t care and denied and declined meeting with us was a slap in the face.”

Newman came within 2,000 votes of unseating Lipinski, losing in March 2018. But with Arab-American support, she easily defeated Lipinski in the March 2020 Democratic Primary by more than 2,816 votes.

Newman won with 52,384 votes while Lipinski lost with 49,568. The Palestinian-Arab candidate who tried to appeal to Arab-American candidates, Rush Darwish, spent nearly $800,000 on the election but only won 6,351 votes, or 5.7 percent of the 110,852 votes cast.

Maali said that she unsuccessfully appealed to Darwish to exit the race and support Newman, who backs many of the issues that Arabs and Palestinian Americans support.

Newman “had the strongest path to victory,” Maali said, while Rush Darwish, a first-time candidate with little experience, did not. She called it a “tough choice,” but added that in the end the best interests of the district’s constituents, including Arab Americans, was the priority.

“So, when she asked me to be her campaign chairwoman, it was a hard decision for me to make because we did have an Arab-American, a Palestinian-American running,” she said.

“That was the reason why I supported her because she represented us on our issues. She gave us a platform . . . and she could win.”

The 3rd Congressional District has been held by a Democrat since 1975 and is overwhelmingly Democratic. It was ranked as having the eighth largest Arab-American population of 50 American congressional districts by The New York Times. It also has the largest concentration of Palestinian-American voters, Maali said.

Maali said that to be successful in winning support for Palestine, Arab-American voters also needed to support the mainstream American population on issues that were important to them.

“Palestine is not the only issue,” she said.

“We care about health care. We care about education. We care about incentives for small businesses. We care about the refugees and immigration reform. We care about all of those issues. We are here as Americans. We care about making sure human rights are not violated anywhere in the world.”

Maali said that Newman supported the right of Arab-Americans to express their opposition to the policies of foreign countries such as Israel, noting that boycotts were an expression of free speech.

Acknowledging that Americans boycotting the racism of the government of South Africa helped to force the end of apartheid there, Maali said Americans also supported boycotting Israel’s government policies, which discriminated against civilians.

“We wanted to make sure we would always be able to practice our right to boycott because it is a fundamental civil right,” Maali said.

Lipinski, she said, supported the passage of legislation that punished Americans who supported boycotting Israeli government policies in the Occupied West Bank.

During the second segment of the radio show, conservative political consultant, Jeff Davis, of Victory Media, said that the public should not rely on news media polling that showed former Vice President Joe Biden as having a significant edge over President Donald Trump.

Davis said that voters should concentrate on several key battleground states including Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina and Michigan.

An analysis of the Arab-American population shows that four battleground states — Michigan, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania — have significant Arab-American voters who could help to drive the election results.

But Davis said that with the new system of mail-in ballots, some state elections might not be fully tabulated for as long as 10 days after the Nov. 3, 2020 election.

“The question really is, how soon will we know? The difference is vote-by-mail applications because of COVID-19 are through the roof. What that means is you are going to have a certain amount of percentage that is going to be outstanding on election day,” Davis said.

 “We might not know for nine days (after the election),” Davis said.

-----------------------

“The Ray Hanania Show” is broadcast every Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. EST in Detroit and simulcast on the Arab News newspaper Facebook page. For more information, visit Arab News online at www.arabnews.com/us2020election.