We’ve been providing plenty of coverage of Turkey over the past year or more, little of it being of a positive nature. Things in Turkey are a mess, to put it mildly, with their own democracy crumbling into tyranny and Turkey’s neighbors growing increasingly alarmed. All of this news creates a setting which makes one defense contracting headline this week even more surprising. It turns out that a previous agreement to sell a fleet of our most advanced fighter jets, the F-35 Lightning, to Turkey is going through. Seriously? (Free Beacon)
The Trump administration still appears set to deliver this month an advanced fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to Turkey amid ongoing threats by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to strike Israel and foment anti-Israel unrest among terrorist forces in the region, a move that is garnering criticism from lawmakers and regional experts.
The Trump administration, despite opposition from Congress, has approved a deal to deliver Turkey’s fighting forces 100 advanced F-35 war planes, sophisticated stealth aircraft capable of evading radars. Two pilots from Turkey’s Air Force have been trained in the United States to fly the jets, which are scheduled to be formally transferred to Turkey by September 2019 if Congress fails in its legislative efforts to block the deal, according to industry trade reports.
The decision to arm Turkey with these advanced planes has drawn concern from regional experts and lawmakers, who are urging the Trump administration to reconsider the sale following public efforts by Erdogan to unite the Islamic world against Israel in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Yes, there was already an agreement in place to make this sale, but agreements have been altered or canceled before. And when the original agreement was struck, the wheels hadn’t entirely come off this wagon yet. Let’s just review a few of the highlights from the past two years or so.
Turkey is currently holding up to a dozen American citizens as political prisoners and made no effort to negotiate in good faith for their release. This group includes Pastor Andrew Brunson who we’ve written of here extensively and has now been in captivity for more than one and a half years. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has shown no good faith in these negotiations.
Turkey has been attacking our Kurdish allies across the border in Syria, endangering American troops who are there supporting and advising them. He is siding with Russia, Iran and Syria in this matter and has crossed over the border on multiple occasions, physically invading a neighboring country to do so. He recently announced that those efforts would be increased, not curtailed.
Turkey has been threatening the nation of Israel, calling for sanctions against them in the United Nations. In private comments this past winter, Erdogan reportedly called for “an army of Islam” to destroy Israel. Turkey has also reduced or curtailed military base access to some of our European allies.
Erdogan has been oppressing his own people in a massive fashion. Opposition politicians, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and judges have been arrested on trumped up charges of supporting the Kurds and thrown in prisons or simply “disappeared.” Journalists have gone missing and the free press has been all but obliterated, with only state-approved media being available to most citizens. Their once thriving economy is beginning to buckle.
Turkey may not have fully become our “enemy” at this point, but it strains credulity to continue to call them an ally. They are in bed with our adversaries and acting against rather than in support of United States interests. Is this really a country which merits being the recipients of 100 of our most advanced combat aircraft? Perhaps it’s time for the author of The Art of the Deal to begin some serious dealing. If Erdogan wants those planes so badly (and he cleraly does) then he should release our political prisoners and deliver a public promise to keep his nose out of Syria and away from our troops. That would at least be a start to returning our relationship to normality and merit some help from us. If he continues to give us the back of his hand then President Trump should rip up the contract and tell him to go buy his planes from the Russians.