NATO Mulls Response To Any Attack On Turkey
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ An Iraqi attack on Turkey could draw NATO nations further into the war against Saddam Hussein if the Turkish government invoked its right to ask the Western allies for aid.
Already the specter of such an attack has sparked debate in Germany and Belgium over whether the alliance should automatically aid Turkey.
However, NATO Secretary-General Manfred Woerner insists the commitment to Turkey is firm. ″If our ally Turkey is attacked, then our obligation to provide assistance will be operative. NATO will protect Turkey,″ he said.
Some critics contend Turkey - the only NATO member to share a border with Iraq - has invited attack by allowing U.S. warplanes to use its air bases for the air war.
″It’s clear that people are looking for ways out of a commitment,″ said Hans Binnendijk of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. ″An attack is an attack,″ he said.
″If the Soviets launched a missile attack on Germany, it seems the Germans would want (NATO) to consider that as an attack. ... The same thing holds true for an Iraqi attack on Turkey,″ Binnendijk said.
Under NATO’s 1949 treaty, member nations agree to consider an armed attack on any of them, in Europe or North America, as an attack on all of them. While Article 5 commits the 16 nations to help each other, it does not spell out what they should do. Each country must decide for itself.
″What that would mean in actual fact would be something that would be worked out,″ said a NATO diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity. ″It probably would mean sending up some troops but not even necessarily.″
Article 5 has never been invoked by a member nation.
In the Persian Gulf, NATO nations have made individual decisions to fight, because the region falls outside the alliance’s security zone of Europe and North America. Of NATO’s 16 member nations, only the United States, Britain and France have sent ground combat troops to the gulf.
Any allied response regarding Turkey would depend on the Iraqi attack, said military analysts and diplomats. A single missile fired into Turkey would bring a much more muted reaction than an invasion by soldiers.
Martin McCusker of the North Atlantic Assembly, which is made up of legislators from NATO nations, predicted the allies would limit their response to sending extra jet fighters and missiles.
″Nothing much more (will be done) than what is already being done,″ he said.
At Turkey’s request, Belgium, Germany and Italy dispatched 42 jets to boost forces at Turkey’s border with Iraq. The United States and the Netherlands sent Patriot missiles.
Turkey has an armed force of about 800,000, the second largest in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization after the United States. About 180,000 soldiers are stationed along the border, facing about 100,000 Iraqi troops.
″There’s no threat from the ground that would require additional ground forces to move into Turkey,″ Binnendijk said.
In Germany, the opposition Social Democrats have argued Turkey is being provocative by allowing U.S. fighters to stage attacks from Turkey. And Otto Lambsdorff, chairman of Germany’s Free Democrats, has suggested NATO should not respond to a missile attack on Turkey.
Debate in Belgium’s government echoes that in Germany. ″Some say Turkey would be attacked as a sovereign state, not as a member of NATO,″ said a government source demanding anonymity.