U.S., Turkey and Israel launch major military exercises

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

ANKARA Turkey has launched a major combat air exercise with Israel and the United States.

Turkey's Air Force began the Anatolia Eagle on Tuesday with allies from the Middle East and the West. The exercise contains three stages and will last several weeks.

Germany, Israel and the United States have joined Turkey for the first stage of the exercise, which takes place in central Turkey. The headquarters of Anatolia Eagle is the Konya Air Force base south of Ankara.

This is Israel's first appearance at Anatolia Eagle in more than two years, Middle East Newsline reported. Israel was not in the exercise in 2002 amid Middle East tensions that stemmed from the Israeli-Palestinian war.

Turkish officials said the first stage of Anatolia Eagle seeks to recreate combat air scenarios that include cooperation and coordination between allied air forces in a regional war. They said Israel, Turkey and the United States have contributed F-16 multi-role fighters for the exercise.

Officials said the exercise was not directed against any of Turkey's neighbors, who include Iran, Iraq and Syria. They said the military has imposed tight security around Konya.

As Anatolia Eagle was launched, Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul deemed Iran as a threat to Turkey. In an address to parliament's Budget Committee, Gonul said Iran seeks to acquire nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and export Islamic violence throughout the region.

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