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Washington discreetly puts spanner in Erdogan's work

The US stepping up restrictions on exports to Turkey in a bid to counter Erdogan's activism in the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya. The Pentagon is also unhappy about Turkey's recent treatment of the US company Sierra Nevada.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan addresses the nation in Istanbul, Turkey, August 21, 2020.
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan addresses the nation in Istanbul, Turkey, August 21, 2020. ©MURAT CET NMUHURDAR/PPO

Stemming the flow

As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to push forward in Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean, the Pentagon and the State Department have started to take action. Despite the ‘special relationship' between Erdogan and Donald Trump, two months before the U.S. election, military and security strategists are tightening restrictions on export licenses and the resale of US military equipment by Turkey. According to our sources, hardly any monitoring and intelligence equipment is getting through, at a time when Ankara needs state-of-the-art optronics, avionics, cameras and other equipment to ensure its forces can operate effectively in Syria and Libya, where a great deal of intelligence equipment is deployed. Baykar Makina's Bayraktar TB-2 drones, and soon the more sophisticated Akinci, are vital aids to Turkish operations in both theatres.

In a major blow to Turkey's military operations and its exports, the US recently blocked the supply of American-built engines for the T-129 ATAK attack helicopter manufactured by the para-public Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). The engines are manufactured in the United States by a joint venture between Honeywell and Rolls-Royce. The Turkish armed forces need the helicopters both for their military operations in the Middle East and to honour their own export contracts. In 2018, Ankara received a $1.5 billion order from the Pakistani armed forces for 30 T-129. The contract will be cancelled by Islamabad if Turkey cannot deliver. The Philippines is also waiting for 24 helicopters and is threatening to order aircraft directly from the US if the situation is not resolved.

TAI recently reactivated its lobbying contracts in Washington with veteran Robert Mangas and former Republican representative Charles Boustany, of the firms Greenberg Traurig and Capital Counsel. But, for the moment, the Pentagon and the State Department are digging their heels in, particularly since the US is increasingly engaged in measures and military contracts with Greece, which is looking to protect itself from its neighbour and long-standing rival's ambitions (see here).

The US's new stance is also in response to Turkey's treatment of Fatih Ozmen, the Turkish US-resident boss of Sierra Nevada Corp (SNC), which provides vital air surveillance (ISR) support to the US special forces, the CIA, the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and other branches of the US intelligence community (IOL 675) as well as working for the Turkish security services (IOL 676).

Ozmen's run-in with the Turkish authorities occurred at Istanbul airport, where he was arrested and held for several hours on his return from the US in July. The arrest came a few days after an SNC Beechcraft Kingair 350i crashed in eastern Turkey while taking part in a counter-insurrection operation.

The company's Turkish subsidiary Esen supplies the country with ISR-adapted aircraft. Esen also recently set up shop in Saudi Arabia despite regional tensions (IOL 858).

SNC did not respond to Intelligence Online's requests for comment.

Source: Intelligence Online


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