Turkey uneasy over secret use of cluster bombs against Iraqi forces by United StatesLale Sariibrahimoglu, Ankara - Turkish Daily News, 04/04/2000
Turkish military intelligence has uncovered U.S. jet fighters conducting reconnaissance flights in the no-fly zone north of the 36th parallel over Iraq and secretly using cluster bombs against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces. This has once more caused uneasiness between Ankara and Washington concerning the nature of the armament which U.S. fighters can carry.
The Turkish and U.S. military have been holding talks on the sensitive issue of using cluster bombs against Iraqi forces, which were used last September but have gone unnoticed since then by the press. Under the rules of engagement agreed upon between Turkey and the United States last year, the United States should inform Turkey of the nature of the armament warplanes are carrying on each flight taking off from Incirlik Air Force Base to monitor the no-fly zone north of the 36th parallel over northern Iraq.
But in September of last year, Turkish military intelligence uncovered U.S. warplanes using cluster bombs against Iraqi forces on grounds of self-defense when Iraqi radars locked onto a U.S. F-16. This has prompted the Turkish and U.S. military to find ways in which the United States would not use such bombs again.
Operation Northern Watch (ONW) based at Incirlik in southern Turkey is composed of Turkish, U.S. and British forces conducting surveillance flights in the region to deter Saddam's forces from attacking Kurds, Turkmen and other ethnic groups living in northern Iraq. Turkish pilots do not take part in the reconnaissance flights over northern Iraq in an attempt not to upset Saddam's regime and not to give Baghdad the impression that the ONW's existence is permanent. But Turkish pilots participate in Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft flights in the region.
Under the agreement British and U.S. aircraft conduct reconnaissance flights over northern Iraq three days per week -- limited to three hours each -- and are entitled to conduct reconnaissance flights a maximum of 18 days per month. A maximum of 48 aircraft operate under ONW.
The nature of arms deployed on a single U.S. F-16 aircraft during flights over northern Iraq has always been an issue of discontent between the United States and Turkey. Turkey classifies cluster bombs (a conventional weapon) as an offensive weapon and is asking the United States not use them against Iraqi forces. Turkey also questions the rationale behind using cluster bombs when the United States denied their transfer to Turkey in 1994 on grounds that the bombs would have been used against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorists.
"The use of cluster bombs against Saddam's forces for self defense is not allowed by Turkey due to the United States' refusal a few years ago to transfer cluster bombs to Ankara. Turkey sees this U.S. policy as a double standard," claimed one Western diplomat. In the meantime, Iraq continues to complain to the United Nations about Turkey and the coalition forces based at Incirlik saying that ONW poses a threat to its security and territorial integrity.
Meanwhile, Turkey is separately negotiating with the United States over the long-delayed transfer of cluster bombs to Turkey. Turkey's order at the time for approximately 100 cluster bombs has been delayed because it was denied by the U.S. Administration when PKK terrorism was at its peak. But with the considerable reduction in PKK terrorist activities, the United States is said to be preparing to transfer the cluster bombs to Turkey.