By Mehmet A. Kanci
– The writer is a seasoned journalist who writes analyses on Turkish foreign policy.
ISTANBUL (AA) – The “Turkey obsession” of the US Congress and House of Representatives, an interesting threat perception that can replace even those emanating from Russia and the People’s Republic of China, will undoubtedly be one of the most significant topics that will attract the attention of political historians examining the Biden era in the near future. There has not been a single month since Joe Biden took office when a bill or a letter criticizing Turkey has not been introduced or written to President Biden or Secretary of State Antony Blinken. If neither of these things happened, a draft law was certainly proposed to improve cooperation between the US and the countries in the region Turkey has been at variance with. Various examples of how lobbies that dominate US domestic politics abuse foreign policy for their own interests are regularly added to the archives of Turkish-US relations. While the most significant issue on which US domestic politics was able to agree was an overall anti-Turkey attitude, writing anti-Turkey letters to the White House or drafting anti-Turkey laws has become quite a fashion in keeping with the D.C. zeitgeist. Members of the Senate and House of Representatives are securing their political futures by riding the wave of taking action/following policies against Turkey.
The domestic policy components of the Biden administration, which emphasizes the importance of their common interests with Turkey and cooperation in the Atlantic alliance at every opportunity, have placed the Turkish defense industry and Turkey’s defense needs at the center of their aggressive approach toward Ankara. Armenia, Greece, Israel, and the Greek Cypriot administration have now launched a new attack through their extensions in US politics, realizing that Turkey’s removal from the F-35 project, in which Turkey was a partner, did not diminish its superiority in the air, but rather, Turkey has made a breakthrough with its armed and unarmed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) projects. On August 10, the media reported on a letter sent to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken by 27 members of the US Congress, claiming that Turkey’s UAV projects posed a threat to US interests. The letter, signed by senators from both parties, claimed that Turkish UAVs were “sources of instability”. However, one cannot help but wonder where exactly Turkish UAVs have caused instability.
According to these US Congress members, Turkey’s use of UAVs to assert Azerbaijan’s rights in Nagorno-Karabakh, which Armenia had occupied for more than 30 years in violation of international law, was a source of instability. According to these US Congress members, using UAVs against the PKK/YPG terrorist organization, which has been violating United Nations (UN) resolutions on the Turkish border and attempting to create a terror corridor by attacking Syria’s territorial integrity, is another source of instability. Another source of instability, according to these politicians, is the use of UAVs to protect the UN-recognized Tripoli administration in Libya from General Khalifa Haftar, who is attempting to hand over Libya’s underground resources to Russia and France on a silver platter.
The letter written to Secretary Blinken by 27 members of the Congress effectively documents the inability of US domestic policy — which, for example, turns a blind eye to the basic cause and effect relationships with regard to the “Events of 1915” — to understand the essence of many issues about which the international community has been manipulated into settling for deadlocks after being lulled into a sleep of ignorance.
– Exposing carnages committed by armed US UAVs results in imprisonment
Although certain civilian initiatives in the US have taken some action in the past, there has been no similar attempt by the US Congress to address the instabilities caused by assassination operations and assaults carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) using US UAVs in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen. According to data published by “The Bureau of Investigative Journalism” , the number of US drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan since 2004 is estimated to have exceeded 14 thousand. It is estimated that between 900 and 2,000 civilians were killed in these attacks. Over 300 of these civilians were children. It would be useful to remind the US Congress members who argue that Turkey’s use of UAVs is a source of instability of an incident from the recent past, without going too far back in history. Only 10 years ago, the fact that the UAV operations of the US had reached the point of killing civilians in Pakistan prompted the Islamabad administration to shut down the drone bases in the country operated by the CIA, and the US UAV fleets were kicked out.
Perhaps it would be beneficial to have these Congress members watch the 2016 documentary “National Bird”, which focuses on the global instability caused by the US UAV operations. According to the information revealed in this documentary by David Hale, an employee of the “National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency” (a branch of the American intelligence community) who served in UAV operations in Yemen and Afghanistan, 9 out of 10 people killed in US UAV attacks were innocent civilians. Hale was sentenced to 45 months in prison for his comments in this documentary on July 27, 2021. We have not heard from a single member of the US Congress about Hale’s right to free speech since.
– Why is CAATSA being used to hinder Turkish UAVs? Is the fleet of naval UAVs to be deployed on the TCG Anadolu being targeted?
How should the intentions of these US Congress members be evaluated when there is such a clear double standard in question? In the letter they wrote to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the members of the Congress reveal their true intentions as follows: “Despite decades of close cooperation, Turkey chose to violate that relationship by purchasing the Russian S400 missile air defense system in violation of U.S. law — the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)… We also wish to note that battlefield evidence from Artsakh confirms that Turkey’s Bayraktar drones contain parts and technology and U.S.-based affiliates of foreign firms… The continued transfer of such technology appears to violate arms export control laws and run afoul to CAATSA sanctions that Congress has imposed on Turkey … We further urge an immediate suspension of any export permits for U.S. drone technology to Turkey pending a State Department review.”
As can be deduced from these statements, rather than to defend US interests, the goal of these Congress members is to defend the interests of Israel, Greek Cyprus, Greece, Armenia, and their regional allies, who are relieved that Turkey will not receive F-35 combat aircraft but disappointed due to Turkey’s UAV technology. Another interesting point is that the sanctions came just as the TCG Anadolu amphibious assault ship was about to join the Turkish navy. Turkey will be the first country to deploy a fleet of naval aircraft on a navy unit, affecting the balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean. While the TB3 UAVs that will be deployed on the TCG Anadolu are set to break new ground in terms of engine technology, design, and ammunition capacity, this move from US Congress members should not be taken as a surprise.
– Turkey: A friend of the White House, a foe of the Congress
Furthermore, the United States’ hostile domestic policy toward Turkey clearly contradicts the Biden administration’s constant emphasis on “Common Interests and the Future of NATO”. In response to questions posed to him during his confirmation hearing as the secretary of state, Antony Blinken accused Turkey of “not acting as an ally” of the United States, and he repeated his rhetoric ahead of the NATO Summit in June. But, lo and behold, the harsh reality of geopolitical struggle compelled the administration, to which the US secretary of state is affiliated, to turn to Ankara to ensure the security of Kabul’s airport. Political decision-makers in the United States and their allies must first agree on one point: Is Turkey a stabilizing partner or a threat to stability? For a proper definition of “alliance”, Biden and his staff must first explain this subject to members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Why would any country be concerned about the weapons capacity of its ally’s army, which is demanded to serve in a region in desperate need of stability, achieving increasingly higher levels of sophistication?
– Does domestic US politics have anything to do with NATO’s goals?
The baselessness of the allegations made by US Congress members in their letter is also evident in their lack of knowledge about a slew of recent developments about and threats to NATO.
At this point, one of the responsibilities of the White House should be to explain to the 27 Congress members the threats that the North Atlantic Alliance is fighting in the Baltic region, Ukraine, the Black Sea, and Central Europe. Currently, Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania are planning to purchase affordable Turkish UAVs to establish balance (and even dominance) against Russian armored units, which are superior on the ground. The superior performance of Turkish UAVs against Russian air defense systems and armored vehicles in Nagorno-Karabakh is regarded as one of the most effective conventional solutions developed against an armored unit attack that could target Western Europe from the plains of Central Europe, and one that NATO was concerned about during the Cold War. If the aforementioned US Congress members are not at the service of US gun lobbies, apart from the Greek Cyprus, Israel, Greece, and Armenia, the initiative that they have taken with the letter they wrote directly threatens NATO’s security.
Another service that could be provided to US Congress members who are disturbed by Turkish UAVs would be to inform them about the potential instability that could arise as a result of weapons left behind by the US army as it withdraws from Afghanistan falling into the hands of the Taliban. Aside from the thousands of light weapons and armored vehicles obtained, British televisions showed how a container full of heavy weapons ammunition fell into the hands of the Taliban at an abandoned US base. On August 12, the international press covered one of the most striking moments in this process, in which the Taliban gradually acquired more and more sophisticated weaponry. Footage circulated on social media showing the Taliban seizing control of Kunduz Airport and seizing ScanEagle UAVs manufactured by the American company Boeing. US Congress members could use their energy more effectively by writing letters to the State Department and the Department of Defense about how these UAVs, which were sent to Afghanistan with the 174 million USD spent from their constituents’ tax money, will become a “source of instability” and by focusing on how they could more effectively defend the rights of the constituents who sent them to Congress.
– Necessity is the mother of invention, and embargoes are the mother of defense developments
Military embargoes imposed on Turkey both directly and indirectly prior to and following the 1974 Cyprus Peace Operation resulted in developments in Turkey’s national defense industry, beginning with the production of landing craft, radios, and parachutes. Likewise, Turkey’s UAV, armed UAV, MILGEM (national warship program), and missile programs are the products of Turkey’s efforts to overcome these embargoes and assert its rights. And, while the most recent attempt by US Congress members may slow down current projects in Turkey, it will open new doors of opportunity for the independence of Turkey’s national arms industry.
Translated from Turkish by Can Atalay
*Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.