‘Turkey is out of control’

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter jet lands at Incirlik airbase in the southern city of Adana, Turkey, December 10, 2015. © Umit Bektas
Turks don’t feel that they need to pay any attention to the US. There are no sanctions to be incurred by ignoring the US, says Larry Johnson, former CIA and State Department official. They are pursuing their own interests regardless of what Washington wants, he adds.

The US Air Force is withdrawing 12 fighter jets from an air base in Turkey. The F-15s were sent to the country only last month to guard Turkish air space and fight Islamic State in Syria. The Pentagon has played down the decision, saying the warplanes had been deployed on a temporary basis.

RT: The decision comes a few weeks after a Turkish fighter jet (an F-16 in that case) shot down a Russian bomber. Does this suggest the US is growing increasingly wary over what Turkey might do next?

Larry Johnson: I think it has more to do with the fact that the US government called for Turkey to back off and leave the Kurds alone. And this is another example of Turkish pique. They are upset with the US meddling in Turkish affairs is quite clear from the earlier reports. The biggest bad actor in this entire affair that’s enabling ISIS is, in fact, the government of Turkey. So, by forcing US fighter planes to withdraw - which are capable of providing some close air support to forces on the ground fighting against ISIS - Turkey once again is tacitly, at least, admitting that it is supporting ISIS and it is not willing to support itself fully to its destruction.

RT: Earlier this month the US put on hold a long-standing request for Turkey to play a more active role in the US-led air war against Islamic State, and Washington has now sided with Iraq, in calling for Turkish troops to leave the country. Are we seeing a deterioration in the Turkey-US relationship?

LJ: I am not so sure to as much it’s a deterioration as it is an exposing the weak influence Barack Obama has over Turkey. The Obama administration is viewed widely in the world, largely in Turkey, as being quite impotent. And this is just another example where the Turks don’t feel that they need to pay any attention to the US. There are no sanctions to be incurred by ignoring the US. They have their own interests; they are pursuing their own interests regardless of what Washington wants. Frankly, if you look at it from the Turkish perspective, you can’t quite figure out what it is that Washington wants, what its objectives are, it is very confusing.  

RT: Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952 but much has changed since then. What do the latest developments mean in terms of Turkey's future in the alliance?

LJ: What is going on – we are seeing Erdogan’s movement of Turkey into more of a radical Sunni camp. Turkey and the Saudi Arabia elites share a goal in common of trying to contain Iran. They are very fearful of the spread of the Iranian influence because it is a Shia nation and the Shia influence is spread throughout the Middle East in part because of the US decision to take Saddam Hussein out in Iraq. So, now you see Turkey and Saudi Arabia working really hand in glove and they’ve been very much the enablers of these Islamic extremists. And….regarding the sarin gas, it was absolutely true. The sarin gas was enabled because of Turkey and that was a part of Turkish intelligence’s plan to try to pin it upon the government of Bashar Al-Assad which in fact had nothing to do with that, I know that first hand. So, in watching this unfold, what we’ve seen is Turkey is deliberately sided with the Islamists. And it is provocation against the Russian people by shooting down the Russian fighter jet without any proper warning. And it was almost a deliberate ambush. So, Turkey, in my view, is out of control and some nation is going to have to bring them to heel.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.