Use of Turkish air bases allows U.S. bombers instant access to targets in northern Iraq from safe air space, without having to cross all of defended Iraq first. The Turkish parliament's granting of this right on the second day of the war helped the U.S. aerial campaign, and showed that Turkey has identified the winner and wishes to be found on the safe side.
This action, pressed by President Turgut Ozal and opposed by the opposition on grounds of endangering the country, follows Turkey's closure of oil pipelines to Iraq in August. The opposition said that Turkey risks reprisals from Iraq, but Mr. Ozal seems more worried that a vanquished Iraq might be dismembered by Iran and Syria without Turkey getting its share.
This step halfway into the coalition is from a protected status. The Turkish army along the border with Iraq outnumbers Iraq's 80,000 to 100,000 troops and pins them down there. Mr. Ozal has authority to throw his troops across the border but says he won't except in self-defense. German, Belgian and Italian planes have taken positions to protect Turkey from attack in behalf of NATO. The Incirlik base shared by American and Turkish air forces is some 430 miles from the Iraq border, usable by fighter planes only with refueling, but the act of the Turkish parliament would also allow U.S. planes to use bases in western Turkey near the targets.
President Ozal is pursuing the Western orientation that has been Turkish policy for six decades. He offends some rural Turkish sentiment that has bought the Islamic propaganda line of Saddam Hussein. What Mr. Ozal and Turkey want most, neither the United States nor its Saudi Arabian ally can grant. That
would be membership in the European Community. Joining the coalition two-thirds of the way can only help Turkey to qualify. Besides, like every other neighbor of Iraq, Turkey legitimately fears Saddam Hussein's heavy armaments and malevolent intentions.