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Tuesday, October 16, 2007          Reader Comments

Turkey could paralyze critical supply lines to Iraq

WASHINGTON The Bush administration is concerned that Turkey could block vital U.S. supply routes to Iraq.

Seventy percent of the fuel and air shipments to the U.S. military in Iraq are currently routed through Turkey.

Officials said the Defense Department and U.S. military believe Ankara could retaliate to a U.S. House resolution that blamed Turkey for the killing of 1.5 million Armenians in World War I. They said Ankara could block weapons and supplies to the U.S. military in Iraq.

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Another concern was that Turkey would limit the U.S. use of the Incirlik air force base near Iraq. The United States has sought to expand its use of Incirlik, now reserved for training and logistics missions, Middle East Newsline reported.

"I think we all recognize there were mass murders 95 years ago, 1915," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said. "The problem that we have is that this is clearly a very sensitive subject for one of our closest allies, and an ally that is incredibly important to the United States in terms of our operations in Iraq."

Gates said 70 percent of the U.S. air cargo to Iraq flies through Turkey. He said 70 percent of the fuel requirements of the U.S. military in Iraq also moves through neighboring Turkey.

Officials said Turkey also serves as the route for new U.S. armored vehicles to Iraq. They cited the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, or MRAP, vehicles, designed to withstand improvised explosive devices.

"For those who are concerned that we get as many of these Mine Resistant Ambush Protected heavy vehicles into Iraq as possible, 95 percent of those vehicles today are being flown into Iraq through Turkey," Gates said on Oct. 12.

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