Archive for category Turkey

US cancels drone deal with NATO Turkey

In the continuing fallout from Israel’s attack on the Gaza rescue ship Mavi Marmara a couple of years ago, the US Congress has cancelled an agreement to sell Predator drones to its NATO ally Turkey.

When Israel attacked the Mavi Marmara in international waters and assassinated several Turkish citizens, it set off a flurry of angry reactions from Turkish authorities, and scuttled the increasing friendship between the two countries. Not only did plans for Turkey to buy drones from Israel collapse, but there were numerous other diplomatic conflicts.

At about that time the identies of 10 agents working for Israeli Mossad were claimed to be revealed to Iran, allegedly by the head of a Turkish intelligence agency. Turkish officials claim that the allegation was simply ‘black propaganda’ by Israel.

An article in Today’s Zaman suggests that no action was taken by the US and Israel at the time because Turkey’s cooperation was needed gathering intelligence in Syria. With the need to spy on Syria lessened, the US was free to retaliate against Turkey on behalf of Israel.

Today’s Zaman also suggests that the move by Washington was in retaliation for Turkey buying long range missiles from a Chinese arms company, instead of Russian, American or European bidders.

It may also be retaliation for Turkey’s broader rejection of Israel’s use of Turkish airspace, and the probability that it is curtailing its cooperation with Israel’s efforts to infiltrate Iran via the Turkish border areas.

Ironically the US supplies Turkey with a great deal of surveillance in parts of eastern Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, specifically aimed at the PKK. This latest move appears to be an attempt to limit control of surveillance by Turkey as well as force Turkey to return to its policy of cooperating with Israel with respect to Iran, and purchasing arms from it. The move wasn’t totally a surprise, it was rumoured last year in Turkey, and in the United States. 

Unless Turkey flinches, the cancellation would ironically appear to be a good thing for peace in the region. Turkey has been making inroads to solving its conflict with the PKK, so has less need for drones to survey and attack rebel fighters. And the US reaction may simply harden Turkey in its resolve not to be used by Israel to threaten or actually attack Iran. The NATO alliance, which is less about mutual aid and more about foreign intervention,  has been weakened yet again. Probably not what the US congress wanted, but a plus for the world at large.

 

 

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US continues to fly drones in Iraq, and Iraqi Kurdistan.

The United States is continuing to fly drones in Iraq, against the wishes of the Iraqi government. There are US drones operating in Iraq in at least two known programmes, and possibly in other covert operations which are as yet undetected.

According to the New York Times, the US operating a ‘small fleet’ of surveillance drones to protect the massive US embassy, the consulates, and US personnel. They are apparently under control of the State Department, the diplomatic arm of the government, where previously drone operations had been confined to the military and the CIA.

The drones range from small helicopter drones a few inches across, to  (as one report suggests) drones the size of a Predator drone. The State Department claims that none are armed or capable of being armed (suggesting that Predator drones are not being used). Most likely these are mostly small drones for protecting convoys, but there is certainly little the Iraqi government can presently do to prevent US  ‘diplomatic’ personnel from launching surveillance drones whereever they wish, besides diplomatic outrage.

The US still has 17,000 ‘diplomatic’ staff in Iraq, based mostly in the massive embassy constructed on the outskirts of Baghdad.

It isn’t clear where the drones are launched from, although certainly the smaller drones involved could be launched from within the compound, or perhaps even from convoys travelling around Iraq.

While the flight of American drones has caused a flap, little mention is made of the American involvement in the war against PKK insurgents in Kurdistan, in Northern Iraq.

The US is known to have been supplying  Turkey surveillance information from flights over Iraqi Kurdistan to help Turkey attack  PKK insurgents. With the departure of the US military from Iraq, the Iraqi government has given permission that US operated Predator drones be flown over Iraqi Kurdistan from their new bases in Incirlik, Turkey. News.az says that four US Predator drones were transferred to Turkey.

In this case,  the operational control of these drones is from air force bases in Nevada. According to Kurd.net the drones continue to fly in Iraqi airspace, with Iraqi permission.

In December, 35 civilians were killed by Turkish air raids just inside Turkey, when they were mistakenly identified by drone surveillance over Iraq as Kurdish fighters. As the civilians entered Turkey from Iraq, on a cigarette and fuel smuggling trip, they were successively attacked by a drone and then by Turkish fighter jets.   The Guardian labelled the drones as ‘Turkish’ drones, but the Turkish Aydinlik daily went so far as to suggest that first bomb was fired by a ‘US’ Predator drone.

On another front, it isn’t possible to know whether US conducts overflights of Iraq by stealth drones like the RQ-170, which would likely be undetectable by the Iraqi government. Known drone flights over neighbouring Iran are based from sites in Afghanistan, rather than from the west, so it is uncertain whether there is a covert drone presence in Iraqi skies.

 

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Turkey builds independent drone capacity

Drone proliferation continues unabated, with as many as 43 countries having drone programmes.

Turkey has under development a medium range, long endurance (MALE) drone similar to the Israeli Heron and Hermes, and the British Watchkeeper. Known as the ANKA, this drone would give the Turks independent drone capabilities and reduce their reliance on Israeli and American drones for surveillance. The Turkish drone programme is part of the worldwide proliferation of drones and remote spying capabilities. The Turks also have a number of smaller mini drones under development.

Turkey has been reliant on Israeli Heron drones that it purchased from Israel Aircraft Industries, but now has very poor relations with Israel. Previously several of the Herons have had to be returned to IAI for maintenance and repairs, but now that the two year guarantee period is up, Turkey has made arrangements with a local company, Tusas Engine Industries to repair the Heron motors, and other repairs will be made by Turkish Aerospace Industries.

There is a plan for armed ANKA drones, called Phoenix, but no plans at present to build them, according to Turkish engineers. Turkish engineers also state that Turkish drones would be more suitable for Turkish conditions than the Israeli imports.

ANKA drones are expected to be in service in the Turkish military in 2013, according to the head of the Turkish drone programme. At that time presumably the drone would be available to export to the four or five prospective purchasers that the Turks claim to have (including Pakistan).

This male drone will prove to be competition for the British Watchkeeper drone, which was sold to the British public partly on the basis of creating an export industry for British drones.

Turkey appears to have one certain sale of the ANKA to Egypt, and others under consideration with Saudi Arabia and several North African countries. The Turkish drone has an competitive advantage in countries which aren’t likely to buy from the leading Israeli suppliers.

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US drones continue to aid Turkey against Kurds

The US has again helped Turkey with its war against the Kurds by supplying them with four Predator drones.  The Predators will be controlled from an air base in Nevada (presumably Creech), and the images obtained will be processed in the US and forwarded to the Turkish army. Thus the Turks will not have access to real time images at the present time. The Predators will be flown from Incirlik air base in Turkey, and directed over Kurdish positions in Iraqi territory.

Turkey wanted access to the Predator drones presumably because five of the ten Heron drones purchased from Israel are undergoing maintenance in Israel. Relations between Turkey appear to have deteriorated so badly that the Daily Beast has reported that some players in Israel may be considering supporting the outlawed PKK in its war against Turkey.

It’s obviously not the first time that Predators have flown over Iraqi Kurdistan, and certainly not the first time they have aided Turkey. But this movement of the Predators to a base in Turkey marks an escalation of US assistance to Turkey in its fight against Kurds seeking to establish an independent Kurdistan.

The Turkish government also wants to purchase MQ9 Reapers, a more modern version of the Predator but this may be forestalled by congressional opposition, due to the deteriorating relations between Turkey and America’s closer ally Israel.

It’s possible that the Predator deal may be a ‘Trojan Horse’. Some have noted that Predators flying over Turkish territory on their return from Iraq could as easily be spying on Turkey, since Turks do not have control over them. This illustrates the complex diplomatic environment the US finds itself in, as it tries to balance its interest among various warring allies.

Defense News notes that Turkey has become dependent on US supplied aerial intelligence in its war on the Kurds, no doubt increased by the fact that its use of Israeli suppplied drones is now curtailed. Turkey has countered this apparent deficit by creating its own drone program, the ANKA, which has not yet been built.

Meanwhile in other news, some people allege that the PKK may have downed an Israeli Heron drone operated by the Israeli military. The drone crashed in the Mediterreanean in Turkish waters and was recovered by Turkey.

The prime beneficiaries of all this appear to be the arms companies. The losers are the civilians of border areas of Kurdistan.

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Pentagon to Have Veto Over Use of Canadian Fighters?

It appears that the Pentagon will retain control over flight codes and key software that controls the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that Canada is in the process of purchasing.

In theory, this would make it possible for outside forces in the US military to navigate Canada’s F-35s, stop them from flying, control their targeting systems and probably many other functions.

Thus, a large portion of our sovereignty over these jets would be compromised. Canada would not be able to count on its ability to use these jets in any situation disapproved of by the US. Canada would be unable to participate in any multilateral strike force in which the US disapproved.

In the Falklands War, the US considered alllying itself with the Argentinian junta. Though it is inconceivable that it would have gone to war with the UK it is very possible that it might have interfered with the UK force tasked with liberating the Falklands. If this situation was happening in the present, and Canada was helping our ally the UK, it is possible that both countries would lose their ability to use their own Joint Strike Fighters.

While it is difficult at present to conjure a situation in which Canada would be defying US policy in its use of jet fighters, over the long lifespan of these jets there may be situations that we cannot even imagine now.

Given the current turmoil in the US government, it isn’t completely possible to predict US behaviour in the future, and we have only to remember the recent US war on Iraq to realise that there are many parties in the US government that can operate almost independently of the US government and are difficult to manage coherently. Our ability to manage our own sovereignty may rely on the machinations of the increasingly irrational American political machinery.

Perhaps the only thing worse than having overpriced weapons you don’t need is having them actually under the control of someone else.

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Canada Lacks Sovereignty in F-35 Purchase

Revelations that Turkey is having second thoughts about its purchase of the F-35 should give pause to Canadians.

Turks are concerned that they will not have complete sovereignty over the jets they purchase because they lack control of the software that manages the jets, and the codes that make it possible to engineer changes. The Pentagon refuses to release key codes. Some of the earlier history of this controversy is outlined here.

Thus it is possible that outside sources, specifically the US, could take control of the navigation of the jets, stop them from flying, interfere with their target acquistion, if the US disagreed with an engagement that Turkey was involved in.

This makes Turkey’s foreign policy subservient to the interests of the US with respect to the use of this jet. If Turkey decided to use the F-35 to protect its borders from its Kurdish enemies in Iraq for example, this would only happen if the US decided to let them.

The same would be true of Canadian F-35’s. Essentially the US would have a veto over Canadian use of our own jets. While it is less likely that Canada will be defying strong US objections to a particular engagement, this still represents a loss of sovereignty.

The UK is said to be reconsidering participation in the F-35 project for the same reason. Perhaps they remember that in their war with Argentina in the Falklands, their ‘ally’ America considered taking sides with the Argentinian dictatorship which had invaded the Falklands. It would have been easy to tip the balance for Argentina simply by disallowing attacks on their forces by the UK’s F-35s (if they’d had them then).

The problem would be less serious for highly armed countries like the UK which are not reliant on one weapon system for their defence. If denied access to its only modern jet fighter, Canada would be very powerless, and vulnerable.

Tony Blair and George Bush minimised the controversy as quoted in DefenseManagement.com: saying that the UK would be able to “successfully operate, upgrade, employ and maintain the Joint Strike Fighter such that the UK retains operational sovereignty of the aircraft.” Details were scarce however on how that might be managed if the Pentagon refused to release the approriate software.

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F-35 Crisis As Turkey Wants Codes

Turkey may back out of the F-35 project because it is being assessed a share of the rising costs, and because it is becoming clear that the US Pentagon will not be sharing ‘flight codes’ and critical software relating to the jets. This leads to the possibility that someone could block the use of the jets, outside of Turkey’s control.

According to IRDW.org, Turkey plans to buy about 100 of the jets. But without source codes and control of the software it would be possible for outside sources to control the jets. According to Turkish sources, Turkey is worried that the US, or one of its key allies like Israel, might be able to block use of Turkey’s own jets if there was disagreement about a mission that Turkey might have. The US would have the power over what planes are designated as enemies, and thus the US would have the power to shut down the plane if Turkey had a third party conflict with a country that was a friend of the US.

The source claims that the UK is considering withdrawing from the project for the same reason.

Total cost of the project to Turkey is said to be $16 Billion.

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