Wednesday, October 10, 2007

ANKARA: Armenian Bill Threatens Turkish-US Military Deals

Today's Zaman, Turkey
Oct 8 2007

Any possible Turkish retaliation to an Armenian "genocide" resolution
that the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs
is expected to approve tomorrow is said to be likely to expand to
include lucrative arms procurement deals between Turkey and the US.

Turkey has long rejected the genocide tag for the World War I deaths
of Anatolian Armenians. But this has not prevented over 20 nations
from recognizing the events as genocide, and now the Committee on
Foreign Affairs is highly likely to adopt the resolution during its
scheduled meeting tomorrow.

If the resolution is approved by the committee, it would be up to
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to decide whether to bring it to the House
floor for a vote. Despite intense efforts launched by both the Turkish
government and the US administration, Pelosi is said to intend to
bring it before the House.

But the passage of the "genocide resolution" by the House alone
(though it is not legally binding for the administration) is likely
to have a serious negative impact on the Turkish public and to further
affect the already damaged Turkey-US relations.

The most vulnerable areas in terms of possible Turkish retaliation
are said to be limiting usage of the Habur border gate with Iraq for
US goods, including oil and military spare parts, as well as limiting
or even closing the Ýncirlik airbase in southern Turkey to US access.

Ýncirlik has been heavily used by the US for its operations both in
Iraq and in Afghanistan.

Any Turkish action to limit or close both Habur and Ýncirlik to US
use will jeopardize US combat operations in Iraq, said an Ankara-based
Western diplomat.

Arms deals to be affected

Another significant region of cooperation between Turkey and the US
said to be at risk from the genocide resolution is arms procurement.

Turkey was one of the leading countries in 2006 for US arms sales,
totaling an estimated $2.1 billion.

Those US sales to Turkey have mostly taken place in the form of
foreign military sales credits that did not involve any international
tender being opened by Ankara. Turkey signed an arms deal based on
foreign military sales with the US worth over $13 billion last year
that involved Turkish purchase of an additional 30 F 16 fighters and
Turkish participation in the US-led Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) project.

Turkey's Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry (SSM) has in the
meantime eased contract terms and conditions for the purchase of
arms through international tenders -- conditions that were mainly
affecting US companies due to the Turkish request for the transfer
of high technology which ran contrary to US legal restrictions.

This relatively flexible Turkish policy has opened the way for US
companies to re-enter the competition for Turkish arms procurement
tenders. A decision to take the genocide resolution to the US House
may prompt the SSM to harden contract terms and conditions for the
US companies.

For example, US firm Sikorsky, which came close to negotiations with
SSM for the sale of around 70 S-70 Black Hawk helicopters to Turkey
may lose this tender as a result of a possible Turkish retaliation
to the resolution, said a senior Turkish defense industry source.

Turkey had been planning to make a final decision on the acquisition
of multipurpose helicopters some time in November, the month that US
House may vote on the genocide resolution.

Similarly, the chance of US companies succeeding in Turkey's $1.4
billion acquisition of four long-range air and missile defense
systems may decrease, and Turkey may instead opt for the Russian S-400
missiles that Moscow is said to be planning to offer in response to
the Turkish tender.

If the fact that almost half of the Turkish Air Forces generals are in
favor of the Russian missiles is taken into consideration, the adoption
of the genocide resolution will further weight this bid in favor of
the Russians, said the same senior Turkish defense industry sources.

US Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are bidding in Turkey's long-range
missile project with a combination of Patriot 2 and Patriot 3 missiles
under foreign military sales conditions.

PKK attack may heighten Turkish emotions

Many Ankara-based Western diplomats fear that the latest Kurdistan
Workers' Party (PKK) attack over the past weekend in Þýrnak in the
Southeast, which killed 13 Turkish soldiers, just three days before
the expected deliberations on the genocide resolution in the Committee
on Foreign Affairs will heighten Turkish emotions.

Since the attack Turkey's possible cross-border operation in northern
Iraq to crack down on PKK terrorists has come to the agenda again.

Turkey has long been accusing the US of not taking action against PKK
bases in northern Iraq, from which terrorists have been infiltrating
into Turkey to stage their violent attacks.

US inaction against the PKK in northern Iraq coupled with a potential
genocide resolution may make Turkey turn more emotional and lead it
to take tougher retaliatory measures against the US, said a Western

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