Posts Tagged 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.
Mitchell Anderson, writing in The Tyee, argues that a huge part of Greek debt was racked up buying unneeded arms from its allies in Britain, Germany, France and the United States. He notes that Greece’s armed forces are much stronger than needed and that Greece’s only realistic enemy is also a strong NATO ally-Turkey.
It’s a great article, well worth reading in full.
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.
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.
In a recent interview in the Jerusalem Post the Chairman of Israeli Aerospace Industries, Yair Shamir, illuminated some interesting parts of Israel policy.
Asked why Israel delivered UAVs to Turkey after relations between the two countries had deteriorated he replied “we do not have the luxury of making deals conditional on political requirements.”
Later: “We constantly declare to the world that we do business regardless of politics; if you buy missiles from us, we won’t demand that you vote for us in the UN. So we do not have the luxury of coming to the Turks with political demands as a condition for honoring a contract. Nevertheless, had the state required of us not to transfer the UAVs to Turkey, we would have listened. The fact is that the State of Israel did not forbid us to do so.”
Still later he said:“On the other hand, if the US reduces its global military involvement as a result of budget cuts, there will be more wars in the world, and then, of course, suppliers like us will be able to sell more arms to customers worldwide. For the time being, I don’t see immediate cuts.”
Elsewhere in the interview he expressed IAI (and Israel’s since IAI is a state owned Israeli company) desire to exploit the arms acquisition needs of countries like Russia and Columbia, with few reservations.
Yair Shamir is the son of a previous Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Shamir.
Another Israeli Company appear to also subscribe to the joint venture mode of manufacturing. Aeronautic Defence Systems has a joint venture with an Austrian company to produce the Dominator drone, which is an airplane converted to robotic control.http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?i=4131339
Israel has implemented a tempory freeze on sales of advanced weapons systems to Turkey, apparently as a result of scathing criticism of Israel by Turkey after the 2008-09 attack by Israel on Gaza. After the attack on Gaza the military cooperation agreement between the two nations was terminated. There has also been problems between Israel and Turkey resulting from the sale of Heron drones to Turkey, which has had many contractual problems.
Here is an excellent UPI article on recent Israel Turkey arms trading issues.
One of the problems outline for Israel is the effects that it has on Israeli air systems testing and training. Turkey had provided airspace for training, and now Israel must find other places, of which Roumania and Hungary have been tried, and India suggested. Turkey’s banning of Israeli training from Turkish air space probably hampered training for a possible air strike on Iran.
This issue provides a window on Israel’s attempts to bully trading partners to get what it wants. It also suggest’s Israel’s vulnerability, since it can obviously be influenced by the actions of its trading partners.
This is one of the few tangible negatives that Israel has sustained as a result of Operation Cast Lead, as Turkey has become more closely aligned with Israel’s most vocal enemies, Syria and Iran.
In terms of drones however Israel gets plenty of training and development opportunities by its drone rentals and sales to many countries in NATO. Israeli arms company personnel are often intimately involved in the deployment of these drones, and thus get valuable experience in operating them in a wide theatre of war.
Turkey has been a valuable ally for Israel, and could be a dangerous enemy. Not because it is likely that Turkey and Israel would ever be in armed conflict, but because Turkey is in NATO, and can veto Israel’s involvement in NATO. Israel values its ties with NATO, and uses its agreements with NATO to integrate its weapons systems with NATO. Without being able to integrate its weapons systems with those of NATO, Israel would be hampered in making weapons sales, especially with NATO countries.
Israel’s military intelligence chief Maj. General Amos Yadlin deflected focus on Israel’s attack on Gaza, and blamed the cooling of relations on Turkey’s drift away from secularism towards ‘radical Islam’.
In 2007 it was reported in Haaretz that Israeli drones were being leased to Turkey for use against Kurds of the PKK in Northern Iraq (Kurdistan), using Israeli crews.
Haaretz reported separately that the Israeli supplier of Heron drones for use in Iraqi Kurdistan was also providing Israeli crews to operate them. It was reported that Heron drones were being used to target PKK rebels in northern Iraq in an offensive in December 2007. This was apparently due to the delay in IAI and Elbit providing Turkey with Heron drones as part of a contract made in 2005.
” “The delays have left the TuAF critically short of UAVs when intelligence input from those valuable reconnaissance assets are exceedingly required,” the Turkish military official was quoted as saying.
According to the Turkish newspaper, the presence of the Israeli crews is an interim solution that was offered following the delay in the delivery of the UAVs. ”
There is relatively little information easily accessible that describes the use of drones in Kurdistan by Turkey. This is hardly surprising due to the sensitive nature of the conflict where Turkey attacks forces in another country, and the alleged use of Israeli crews to operate these drones.
No doubt the reason Turkey wants its own drones is to make it independent of the US for intelligence about Kurdish rebels. In the actions against the Kurds in 2008 Turkey relied on intelligence from US sources, including drones over nothern Iraq, but this made them dependent on the US for information.
In 2008, Associated Press reported that a Turkish drone (a Heron leased from Israel) crashed in Kurdistan.
In January, 2010, an Iranian source reported that Turkey was about to take delivery of 4 Heron drones from Israel, and that Turkish ‘experts’ were in Israel testing them.
At about the same time, al Bawaba reported that Israeli Turkish relations were being mended and that 7 of 13 joint military projects were being complete. The newly delivered Israeli drones would be used to monitor Kurdish separatist hideouts in northern Iraq.
In February, 2010 Kurdmedia.com reported comments by Ahmed Deniz of the PKK that Turkey had demanded a drone from the US in return for increasing its role in Afghanistan. Kurdnet reported that Deniz said that this drone would be used against the PKK.
Israel arms companies IAI and Elbit systems have sold Turkey 10 Heron drones at a cost of $183 million. While the Heron drones will be primarily used for surveillance of the opposition PKK forces in northern Iraq, Turkey is also interested in acquiring an Israeli Harpy 2 drone which can be armed. At least one source suggests that Turkey has placed an order for the Harpy 2. And older source claims that Turkey plans to acquire 48 Harpy 2 drones, which are very small anti radar, ‘loitering’ drones capable of carrying a missile. (The same source describes the $880 million deal that has Israel upgrading many of Turkey’s planes and tanks). The Harpy 2 was designed to destroy surface to air missiles as well as radar systems, making airspace safe for attackers planes. It carries a 23 kg warhead, and because of its relatively low cost, it is expendible. It was developed to allow Israel to attack Iran.
Currently the Heron drones, and a Predator drone supplied by the US, are used to gain intelligence on PKK bases in Northern Iraq, which are then targetted by mortars and aircraft.
The Turkish campaign against the PKK in Iraq, which is of dubious legality, causes untold hardship to civilians living in the area of the conflict.
In October 2008 it was announced that leased Heron drones had been delivered to Canadian forces in Afghanistan. The UAV’s have been made in Israel, and all support services will be provided by MacDonald Dettwiler of Vancouver. Heron to Provide Unique Intelligence to Commanders, Sa News.com, 17 October, 2008
Heron drones are also in use in Israel, and have been exported to Turkey, France, and India. Canadian Contracts for Heron UAVs, Defense Industry Daily, 10 August, 2007