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Shepperd: Turkey's help would be 'a big deal'

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd says Turkish cooperation with the United States could reduce casualties in a war with Iraq.
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd says Turkish cooperation with the United States could reduce casualties in a war with Iraq.

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(CNN) -- Turkey's parliament failed to pass a proposal Saturday to allow more than 60,000 U.S. troops to operate from Turkish bases and ports in the event of a war with Iraq.

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd, a CNN military analyst, discussed the strategic importance of Turkey with CNN anchor Renay San Miguel.

SHEPPERD: Renay, [this] really complicates our plans.

We have boats waiting in the Mediterranean off the ports of Turkey to unload equipment that needs to be taken on a long trek from the ports ... and then to establish that northern front [against Iraq]. So this puts a major crank in those plans.

We have other plans; we can do it other ways, but this really delays us, and we really need a decision. Hopefully, we'll get a decision in the affirmative by Tuesday, Renay.

SAN MIGUEL: We've got a map showing the six nations that surround Iraq and which ones have given a go-ahead, which ones are still waffling and which ones will definitely not be basing any U.S. troops.

Let's start with Syria and Iran, no chance there.

SHEPPERD: No chance at all. Turkey's in question. Of course, Kuwait is going to allow us, and there are troops now massing [there]. Saudi Arabia has provided us air access, air bases and also airspace. [In Jordan], no announcements have been made either by Jordan or by us, but there are rumors that lots of cooperation is going on there.

So it looks like we have a good southern way [into Iraq], [and] a good western way, and now the northern way is in question if combat breaks out, Renay.

SAN MIGUEL: And the reason I say that the door is not shut here, even if Turkey were to come back and say no again early next week, [is that] Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers, appearing with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld late this week, said one way or the other, the U.S. is going to have troops in northern Iraq.

So basically the idea is that there is going to be a staging offensive there, it's just going to be more difficult to get those troops in there [if Turkey doesn't cooperate].

SHEPPERD: Much more difficult. The ... other options are two. One is to go into the Kuwaiti ports and then drive west of Baghdad, circle around and establish a front in the north.

Another, of course, is to fly [troops and equipment] in.

Those are both bad options. It's a logistical nightmare either way. And if you don't have a northern front, that allows [Iraqi President] Saddam [Hussein] to concentrate on a western and southern front, making it more dangerous for coalition forces.

So this [decision by Turkey], in no small measure, is a big deal.


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