Turkish military coup trial nears verdict

By Ece Toksabay

The trial of hundreds of Turkish military officers accused of plotting to overthrow Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government appeared to be approaching a conclusion on Monday after a state prosecutor called for the court to move to a verdict.

The prosecutor’s call raised the prospect of a rapid end to the two-year-old “Sledgehammer” trial, which has tarnished the standing of the once all-powerful military.

A guilty verdict would underline the growing civilian dominance over the generals.

Prosecutors have demanded 15-20 year jail sentences for the 364 serving and retired officers in the case, which revolves around a 2003 military seminar that prosecutors say was part of a plot to overthrow Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

The conspiracy is alleged to have included plans to bomb historic mosques in Istanbul and trigger conflict with Greece to pave the way for an army takeover.

The Turkish army has traditionally played a dominant role in politics, staging three coups between 1960 and 1980 and pushing the country’s first Islamist-led government out of office in 1997.

But its authority has been reined in sharply since Erdogan first came to power nearly a decade ago.

Public interest in a series of anti-government conspiracy cases has waned recently as the trials have dragged on amid growing suspicion among government critics that they were being used to crack down on dissent.

The prosecutor recommended in June that the case be referred back to the prosecutor’s office, raising the possibility of a retrial. But he said on Monday this would unnecessarily lengthen pre-verdict detention periods of 250 officers held on remand.

“The prosecution does not demand the transfer of the case and advises the court to proceed to the ruling stage in line with the prosecutor’s final opinion presented previously,” prosecutor Huseyin Kaplan said.

The call to transfer the case was triggered by a defence lawyers’ boycott of the hearings in protest against the court’s refusal to consider forensic evidence in defence of their clients.

The court called a recess to consider the prosecutor’s comments and defence lawyer Celal Ulgen said he expected the court to agree with the prosecutor that the case need not be transferred and may reach a verdict on Monday.

The latest hearing followed a decision by the Turkish armed forces to retire of all 40 generals and admirals jailed facing charges of conspiring against the government.

A former Turkish military chief told another court on Friday that the 2003 war game central to the prosecution had gone too far in using real politicians’ names and that he had raised his concerns at the time.

Reuters

The Specter of Syrian Chemical Weapons

By Scott Stewart

The unraveling of the al Assad regime in Syria will produce many geopolitical  consequences. One potential consequence has garnered a great deal of media  attention in recent days: the possibility of the regime losing control of its  chemical weapons stockpile. In an interview aired July 30 on CNN, U.S. Secretary  of Defense Leon Panetta said it would be a “disaster to have those chemical  weapons fall into the wrong hands — hands of Hezbollah or other extremists in  that area.” When he mentioned other extremists, Panetta was referring to local and transnational  jihadists, such as members of the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been  fighting with other opposition forces against the Syrian regime. He was also  referring to the many Palestinian militant groups such as Hamas and the Popular  Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which have long had a  presence in Syria and until recently have been supported by the al Assad  regime.

The fear is that the jihadists will obtain chemical weapons to use in  terrorist attacks against the West. Israel is also concerned that Palestinian  groups could use them in terrorist attacks inside Israel or that Hezbollah could  use such weapons against the Israelis in a conventional military battle.  However, while the security of these weapons is a legitimate concern, it is  important to recognize that there are a number of technical and practical  considerations that will limit the impact of these weapons even if a militant  group were able to obtain them.

Militant Use of Chemical Weapons

Militant groups have long had a fascination with chemical weapons. One of the  largest non-state chemical and biological weapons programs in history belonged  to the Aum Shinrikyo  organization in Japan. The group had large production facilities located in  an industrial park that it used to produce thousands of gallons of ineffective  biological agents. After the failure of its biological program, it shifted its  focus to chemical weapons production and conducted a number of attacks using  chemical agents such as hydrogen cyanide gas, phosgene and VX and sarin nerve  agents.

Jihadists have also demonstrated an interest in chemical weapons. The  investigation of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing found that bombmaker Abdul  Basit (aka Ramzi Yousef) had added sodium cyanide to the large vehicle-borne  improvised explosive device detonated in the Trade Center’s basement parking  garage. The cyanide was either consumed or so widely scattered by the huge blast  that its effects were not noticed at the time of the attack. The presence of the  cyanide was only uncovered after investigators found a list of the chemicals  ordered by conspirator Nidal Ayyad and debriefed Basit after his arrest.

In his testimony at his 2001 trial for the Millennium Bomb plot, Ahmed Ressam  described training he had received at al Qaeda’s Deronta facility in Afghanistan  for building a hydrogen cyanide device. Ressam said members of the group had  practiced their skills, using the gas to kill a dog that was confined in a small  box.

Videos found by U.S. troops after the invasion of Afghanistan supported  Ressam’s testimony — as did confiscated al Qaeda training manuals that  contained recipes for biological toxins and chemical agents, including hydrogen  cyanide gas. The documents recovered in Afghanistan prompted the CIA to  publish a report on al Qaeda’s chemical and biological weapons program that  created a lot of chatter in late 2004.

There have been other examples as well. In February 2002, Italian authorities  arrested several Moroccan men who were found with about 4 kilograms (9 pounds)  of potassium ferrocyanide and allegedly were planning to attack the U.S. Embassy  in Rome.

In June 2006, Time magazine broke the story of an alleged  al Qaeda plot to attack subways in the United States using improvised  devices designed to generate hydrogen cyanide gas. The plot was reportedly  aborted because the al Qaeda leadership feared it would be ineffective.

In 2007, jihadist militants deployed a series of large  vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices augmented with chlorine gas  against targets in Iraq. However, the explosives in these attacks inflicted far  more casualties than the gas. This caused the militants to deem the addition of  chlorine to the devices as not worth the effort, and the Iraqi jihadists  abandoned their chemical warfare experiment in favor of employing vehicle-borne  improvised explosive devices without a chemical kicker.

There have also been several credible reports in Iraq of militants using  chemical artillery rounds in improvised explosive device attacks against  coalition forces, but those attacks also appear to have been largely  ineffective.

Difficult to Employ

Using chemical munitions on the battlefield presents a number of challenges.  The first of these is sufficiently concentrating the chemical agent to affect  the targeted troops. In order to achieve heavy concentrations of the agent,  chemical weapon attacks were usually delivered by a massive artillery  bombardment using chemical weapons shells. Soviet military chemical weapons  doctrine relied heavily on weapons systems such as batteries of BM-21 multiple  rocket launchers, which can be used to deliver a massive amount of ordnance to a  targeted area. Additionally, it is very difficult to control the gas cloud  created by the massive barrage. There were instances in World War I and in the  Iran-Iraq War in which troops were affected by chemical weapon clouds that had  been created by their own artillery but had blown back upon them.

Delivering a lethal dose is also a problem in employing chemical weapons in  terrorist attacks, as seen by the attacks outlined above. For example, in the  March 20, 1995, attack on the Tokyo subway system, Aum Shinrikyo members  punctured 11 plastic bags filled with sarin on five different subway trains.  Despite the typically very heavy crowds on the trains and in the Tokyo subway  stations that morning, the attacks resulted in only 12 deaths — although  thousands of other commuters were sickened by the attack, some severely.

The Syrian regime is thought to have mustard gas as well as tabun, sarin  and VX nerve agents in its chemical weapons inventory. Mustard gas, a blistering  agent, is the least dangerous of these compounds. In World War I, less than 5  percent of the troops who were exposed to mustard gas died. Tabun and sarin tend  to be deployed in a volatile liquid form that evaporates to form a gas. Once in  gas form, these agents tend to dissipate somewhat quickly. VX, on the other  hand, a viscous nerve agent, was developed to persist in an area after it is  delivered in order to prevent an enemy force from massing in or passing through  that area. While VX is more persistent, it is more difficult to cause a mass  casualty attack with it since droplets of the liquid agent must come into  contact with the victim, unlike other agents that evaporate to form a large  cloud.

But there are other difficulties besides delivering a lethal dose. Because of  improvements in security measures and intelligence programs since 9/11, it has  proved very difficult for jihadists to conduct attacks in the West, even when  their attack plans have included using locally manufactured explosives. There  have been numerous cases in which plots have either failed, like the May  2010 Times Square attack involving Faisal Shahzad, or been detected and  thwarted, like the September  2009 plot to attack the New York subway system involving Najibullah  Zazi.

Because of the improved security, it would be very difficult for jihadists to  smuggle chemical agents into the United States or Europe, even if they were able  to obtain them. Indeed, as mentioned above, the chemical artillery rounds used  in improvised explosive devices in Iraq were employed in that country, not  smuggled out of the region.

This means that jihadists not only face the tactical problem of effectively  employing the agent in an attack but also the logistical problem of transporting  it to the West. This difficulty of transport will increase further as awareness  of the threat increases. One way around the logistical problem would be to use  the agent against a soft target  in the region. Such targets could include hotels, tourist sites, airport  arrival lounges or even Western airliners departing from airports with less than  optimal security.

Another option for jihadists or Palestinian militants could be to attempt to  smuggle the chemical agent into Israel for use in an attack. However, in recent  years, increased security measures following past suicide bombing attacks in  Israel have caused problems for militant groups smuggling weapons into Israel.  The same problems would apply to chemical agents — especially since border  security has already been stepped up again due to the increased flow of weapons  from Libya to Gaza.

Militants could attempt to solve this logistical challenge by launching a  warhead or a barrage of warheads into Israel using rockets, but such militant  rocket fire tends to be very inaccurate and, like conventional rocket warheads,  these chemical warheads would be unlikely to hit any target of value. Even if a  rocket landed in a populated area, it would be unlikely to produce many  casualties due to the problem of creating a lethal concentration of the agent —  although it would certainly cause a mass panic.

The use of chemical weapons would also undoubtedly spur Israel to retaliate  heavily in order to deter additional attacks. This threat of massive retaliation  has kept Syria from using chemical weapons against Israel or allowing its  militant proxies to use them.

Hezbollah may be the militant organization in the region that could most  effectively utilize Syrian chemical munitions. The group possesses a large  inventory of artillery rockets, which could be used to deliver the type of  barrage attack required for a successful chemical weapon attack. Rumors have  been swirling around the region for many months that Libyan rebels sold some  chemical munitions to Hezbollah and Hamas. While we have seen confirmed reports  that man-portable air-defense systems and other Libyan weapons are being  smuggled into Sinai en route to Gaza, there has been no confirmation that  chemical rounds are being smuggled out of Libya.

Still, even if Hezbollah were to receive a stockpile of chemical munitions  from Syria or Libya, it has a great deal to lose by employing such munitions.  First, it would have to face the aforementioned massive retaliation from Israel.  While Israel was somewhat constrained in its attacks on Hezbollah’s leadership  and infrastructure in the August 2006 war, it is unlikely to be nearly as  constrained in responding to a chemical weapon attack on its armed forces or a  population center. Because of the way chemical weapons are viewed, the Israelis  would be seen internationally as having just cause for massive retaliation.  Second, Hezbollah would face severe international repercussions over any such  attack. As an organization, Hezbollah has been working for many years to  establish itself as a legitimate political party in Lebanon and avoid being  labeled as a terrorist organization in Europe and elsewhere. A chemical weapon  attack would bring heavy international condemnation and would not be in the  group’s best interest at this time.

So, while securing Syrian chemical munitions is an imperative, there are  tactical and practical constraints that will prevent militants from creating the  type of nightmare scenario discussed in the media, even if some chemical weapons  fell into the wrong hands.

Stratfor

Hollywood to showcase Turkish guns

This is the UTS 15 rifle that will be used in the Hollywood action films.

Turkey’s Utaş Makine Sanayii has signed a deal with an American distributor in Hollywood for its UTS 15 rifle to be used in Hollywood action film productions, according to daily Zaman.

The UTS 15 rifle has already been used in the joint American-Canadian science fiction television show Fringe. Eight UTS 15 rifles will also be used in an upcoming film produced by Universal Pictures in Canada starring Tom Cruise and Denzel Washington. Another film to be shot in Thailand will also use the rifle. Utaş Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Abdullah Güzeldere said that although the film production team could not purchase a large quantity of rifles, the film still provided a good platform through which to showcase the weapon.

Utaş exports to 25 countries including America, Germany, England, Canada and Kuwait. It is also planning to start selling to Russia and Ukraine. “We sent our first shipment of rifles last week to the U.S. … We expect to sell 25,000 guns in the American market,” said Güzeldere, adding that they planned to sell to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Police Department.

HDN

Turkey’s changing role in NATO

A two-day NATO Summit in Chicago was concluded May 21 with the adoption of a new “Smart Defense” strategy, just as it had been announced in advance.

The 28 members agreed to coordinate use of their military resources under dire circumstances of global economic difficulties to overcome global threats together.

In an environment where the United States is in the process of shifting its focus from the Atlantic-Europe zone to the Pacific-Asia zone, the new NATO strategy fits into American needs to entrust interests in the Atlantic-European zone to their allies there by providing them new ways, means and tools to do that. And lessening the burden on its shoulders is one of the reasons behind all that smart defense resource sharing thing.

The missile shield is an important part of that strategy. The shield project, which NATO said yesterday was officially in active use, consists of five units: The command center in Ramstein, Germany, the intercepting missiles on board the U.S. missile ships off the Spanish coasts, land-based missile batteries in Poland and Romania, as well as an early warning radar site in Kürecik, Turkey. A White House Fact Sheet yesterday revealed that only the Kürecik radar, an AN/TPY-2 type one (which has been effectively in use since January) has been transferred by U.S. President Barack Obama from U.S. to NATO operational control; the others will remain U.S. sites.

There is a detail here. Israel has the same radar on its soil, and if that radar would fully satisfy the U.S.’ needs, it would be hard to find any reason why Washington would ask Ankara to hear their needs and demands in return. NATO control, of course, gives a different hand to Turkey vis-à-vis its relations with northern neighbor Russia and eastern neighbor Iran; both are not very happy because of the presence of the radar as they feel like the targets.

Turkey comes into this picture in a different way. When the U.S. focus was on the Atlantic-Europe zone, Turkey was on the eastern fringe bordering Russia and the energy basins of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea; now in the Pacific-Asia focus, Turkey remains in the picture at the western fringe and with the capabilities to have an influence on the Islamic political geography. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was in Pakistan yesterday to discuss their future role in Afghanistan on behalf of the Western alliance while the Western leaders were discussing the same issue in Chicago some ten thousand miles away.

These qualities bring an upgraded role to Turkey in the NATO system as well and are not limited to a new (Land Forces in İzmir) command and more officers. It is a political one and in order to enhance it, the U.S. and major European allies are seeking two improvements in two main fields: Upgraded democratic standards which are expected to come with the new constitution that is being prepared and better relations with the neighborhood – that usually means Israel, Cyprus and Armenia nowadays. If the new coalition in Israel comes closer to an apology over the killing of nine Turks in the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla tragedy, that could be a good start for the process.

HDN

Brazil and Turkey, a Natural Defense Partnership Deepens

The defense ministers of Brazil and Turkey met in Brazil last month, where they signed a letter of intent to improve bilateral military ties and increase technology transfers. In an email interview, Oliver Stuenkel, an assistant professor of international relations at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo, discussed the military relationship between Brazil and Turkey.

WPR: What is the extent of the current defense relationship between Brazil and Turkey in terms of military-to-military relations and defense-industrial ties?


Oliver Stuenkel
: The defense relationship between Brazil and Turkey is still small and incipient, yet in 2003, Brazil and Turkey signed an agreement to work together in defense matters. As with the broader bilateral relationship, there is significant potential for stronger cooperation in defense. The recently signed letter of intent formalizes a move to “develop cooperation between the defense industries of both countries, including technology transfer and joint projects.”

An initial focus will lie on initiating personnel exchanges between the armed forces, developing platforms for regular meetings and knowledge exchange, and working together on issues around cybercrime. For example, Turkish soldiers are set to participate in a Brazilian military center that focuses on jungle warfare in the Brazilian Amazon. Both Brazil and Turkey are keen on increasing their capacity to develop modern military technology on their own rather than depending on foreign equipment. In some areas this is already the case — as with Brazil’s Embraer — but neither country currently possesses cutting-edge knowledge in naval technology, space technology, defense against cyberattacks or unmanned aircraft. The ability to develop such technology would not only provide both countries with greater strategic autonomy, but also allow them to export high-tech military equipment.

WPR: What are the main opportunities and challenges for the two as they attempt to strengthen the relationship?


Stuenkel
: While they face very different regional security threats, both countries are intent on modernizing their armed forces. Brazil, for example, is keen on strengthening its naval capacity as it seeks to boost its dissuasive force to protect the natural resources located off the Brazilian coast in the South Atlantic. With commercial shipping trends dramatically increasing the strategic importance of the South Atlantic, the Brazilian government is also beginning to articulate a vision for a South Atlantic Security Space. It is currently building a fleet of nuclear and diesel-engine submarines to give it a meaningful presence there.

At the same time, both Brazil and Turkey may increasingly assume political tasks that require them to increase their military capacity. Brazil is engaging in defense cooperation with many of its neighbors, and has led the Minustah peacekeeping mission in Haiti since 2004. The Brazilian army is now withdrawing from Haiti, but we can expect to see a growing number of Brazilian peacekeepers in many future conflicts around the world.

NATO-member Turkey has an active deployment in Afghanistan, and its soldiers participate in U.N. peacekeeping missions around the world, including difficult missions such as the ones in Lebanon, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

WPR: What are both sides looking for from heightened defense ties, in terms of both political goals and concrete outcomes?


Stuenkel
: Since the end of the Cold War, and particularly over the last decade, both Brazil and Turkey have sought to diversify their partnerships. Turkey continues to be a candidate for European Union accession, but it has also established stronger ties with other rising powers such as India and China. In addition, it has built an impressive diplomatic presence in Africa, indicating that Turkey may seek to extend its sphere of influence to all the territory that once formed the Ottoman Empire. Brazil, for its part, has spent the past decade strengthening ties to Africa as well as emerging states such as China, India and Turkey. In addition, the Brazilian-Turkish partnership is an important element in both countries’ strategies to strengthen their global economic and political presence. For Turkey, Brazil is the most important actor in South America, while Turkey is Brazil’s preferred partner and platform to strengthen its presence in the Middle East.

WPR

Lockheed Martin remains sole bidder for new frigates

U.S. defense industry giant Lockheed Martin has been left as the only bidder in the $3 billion project for the joint manufacture of six frigates for the Turkish navy after Ankara rejected the remaining contender BAE Systems’ proposal.

The project, however, may still not be awarded to Lockheed Martin if an agreement cannot be reached on the technical aspects of missile integration. Such an eventuality would cause the project to be shelved and then reshaped.

The long-delayed project envisions the TF-2000 frigate as a regional anti-air warfare vessel that would respond to aerial threats and also provide support functions such as command control, communication, reconnaissance and early warning. It would be bigger, heavier and more efficient in terms of war capacity than the vessels the navy has today.

The Defense Ministry last month sent a letter informing their British counterparts that Turkey was “no longer interested” in BAE Systems’ offer, an official familiar with the tender told the Hürriyet Daily News.

BAE is currently working on a new type of frigate, Type 26, which is internationally known as the Global Combat Ship (GCS). “BAE has already started the project. It was late to join. Our needs would have increased the cost. Or we would have had to review our requirements in accordance with the British Navy, but our requirements are different. BAE had also asked for a ‘license fee.’ The partnership offer would have become a model in which Turkey was financing BAE’s project,” the source told the Daily News.

Turkey’s defense procurement agency, the Undersecretary of Defense Industries (SSM), has come close to formally selecting Lockheed Martin, but it needs to hear the Turkish Navy’s decision on the choice of missile systems, which is the most critical part of the project. The ship will be designed according to the missile systems, because of their enormous weight.

Missile Issue

Selecting the Lockheed SM2 missile system would simplify everything, as it is not heavy. The SM3 system would mean more negotiations on many aspects. It has a wider range, which means that the system would overlap with some of the Air Forces’ air defense duty. Missile integration is another subject to be solved.

Lockheed uses AN/SPY1 radar, while Turkish company Aselsan has started working on a smaller system called Multifunctional Phased Array Radar project (ÇAFRAD). Lockheed Martin has a Ship Integrated War Administration System called Aegis, which includes the AN/SPY1 radar, but Turkish Havelsan has already manufactured a smaller version called Genesis. Turkey wants ÇAFRAD to be inserted into AN/SPY1, Genesis to replace Aegis, and this combination to be integrated with the SM3 system.

If the two sides fail to resolve the missile integration question, then a second option will be considered. Turkey has successfully manufactured a corvette under the so-called Milgem project.

Milgem would be re-designed to manufacture a light frigate for air defense warfare and would be named TF100. “We have to develop something based on Milgem or we will waste all our know-how,” an industry source said.

HDN

Turkish civilian killed in attack by Kurdish terrorist

TR Defence – Diyarbakir

PKK is a criminal militant organization recognized as terrorist by the U.S., Turkey and European Union.

A construction worker was killed and three people were wounded when Kurdish militants attacked a military outpost in southeastern Turkey near the Iraqi border, security sources said on Saturday.

Fevzi Altunc was killed late on Friday when gunmen from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) opened fire on the outpost in a remote area in Hakkari province, the sources said. The three wounded workers were being treated in hospital on Saturday, they said. They had been building the station in the wooded, mountainous area near the village of Yesilova. Security forces have launched an operation in the area, said Firat News, a website close to the PKK. The website said Altunc was killed and the others were wounded during a firefight between the PKK and Turkish soldiers.

Separately, PKK rebels kidnapped a village leader and five other members of a state-backed militia after stopping their vehicles at a road block in Bitlis province late on Friday, the sources said.

Reuters

Lethal Drone Attack Hits US-Turkish Mil. Relations

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal about a Turkish military attack last December that left 34 Kurdish smugglers dead has led to intense debate inside Turkey and has given rise to new questions about the level of American involvement in Ankara’s fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The attack, which took place near a village called Uludere on the Turkey-Iraq border, came after the Turkish military came to believe that a convoy of PKK fighters was trying to enter Turkey through a mountain trail. After Turkish warplanes struck the convoy, based on intelligence provided by an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), it turned out that it was actually made up of villagers — mostly teenagers — smuggling fuel into Turkey. Although the Turkish government promised to investigate the incident and has also paid the victims’ families compensation, there has still been no explanation as to what caused the intelligence failure that led to 34 innocent people being killed.
The WSJ article from two days ago adds a new and dramatic wrinkle to the story: the original intelligence about the convoy was given to the Turkish military by an American UAV. Reportsthe Journal:

It was a U.S. Predator drone that spotted the men and pack animals, officials said, and American officers alerted Turkey.

The U.S. drone flew away after reporting the caravan’s movements, leaving the Turkish military to decide whether to attack, according to an internal assessment by the U.S. Defense Department, described to The Wall Street Journal. “The Turks made the call,” a senior U.S. defense official said. “It wasn’t an American decision.”

There is nothing unusual about an American UAV providing Ankara with intelligence. US drones have supporting Turkish military efforts since 2007, when Washington set up what is known as the Combined Intelligence Fusion Cell, a complex in Ankara where American and Turkish officers sit together and jointly monitor live drone video feeds. But that cooperation has been increased over the last year. As previously reported on this blog, last November the US moved a squadron of Predators from a base in Iraq to Turkey’s Incirlik airbase as part of an effort to deepen military ties with Ankara and to increase cooperation in the fight against the PKK.

As the WSJ article makes clear, though, there are some in Washington — in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill — who are concerned about how the intelligence provided by American drones might be used by Ankara:

A former senior U.S. military official, involved in sharing intelligence with Turkey before the December attack, said he and fellow officers were sometimes troubled by Turkish standards for selecting targets. The former official said Turkish officers sometimes picked targets based on a notion of “guilt by association” with the PKK. A current U.S. intelligence official defended the partnership. “That is going to be the exception. It is a horrible exception. It’s a tragic exception,” he said of the caravan strike. “But the vast majority of efforts to expand our information sharing and to work with our partners and allies around the world are going to have positive outcomes.”

U.S. personnel work in the Ankara Fusion Cell, in part, to monitor Turkey’s use of U.S. intelligence, U.S. officials said.

Turkish officials have assured the U.S. of their measures to avoid civilian casualties. They say privately that Predator drones help reduce attacks on the PKK using less precise weapons, such as artillery.

But U.S. officials say such mistakes are feeding a debate within the intelligence community and the Defense Department about setting better guidelines for sharing of U.S. intelligence.

Intelligence officials are divided on the issue. Some say the U.S. should withhold intelligence if it believes an ally might abuse the information. Others warn new rules could slow intelligence sharing during emergencies.

The report, meanwhile, has put the Turkish government in a tight spot. The suggestion that Turkish authorities gave a green light to attack the convoy after refusing an American offer to provide more Predator surveillance could make Ankara vulnerable to charges of negligence and could further inflame an already tense situation in Turkey’s predominantly-Kurdish southeast region. At the same time, regardless of how the intelligence was used, Ankara likely doesn’t want to be perceived domestically as working too closely with Washington or, worse, being somehow under American command. Not surprisingly, both the Turkish military and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have denied the claims made in the WSJ’s story. The allegations in the article were “made up,” Erdogan said.

One way or another, it’s clear that this incident will likely lead not only to a change in how Turkey uses UAV-provided intelligence, but also in how Washington controls what is done with the drone intelligence it provides Ankara.

Israel delivers 4 more Herons

Isreal has delivered 4 Heron unmanned reconnasissance aircraft to Turkey. TR Defence sources reported on Saturday.

Turkish-Israeli relations were heavily damaged following Israel’s deadly raid to Turkey’s Mavi Marmara aid ship in international waters, claiming the lives of 9 Turks and 1 American on board. Turkey recalled its ambassador to Israel and all military relations were frozen in response. Recently, relations further strained after an Israeli aircraft violated North Cyprus’ airspace,  a protectorate of Turkey, reportedly in order to gain intelligence on the latest oil & gas drilling developments and to gauge Turkey’s response to a possible hot conflict over the island of Cyprus.

Behind closed doors, however, Israel has seemingly started to try and repair relations. Turkey had sent to Israel 5 Heron-type unmanned aerial vehicles for maintenance and upgrades. But Israel had  thus far refused to return them to Turkey due to the restrained relations. Finally though, four of the five Turkish aircraft were delivered back to Turkey last week, reports indicated.

Condition and mission worthiness of the airplanes, though, is unknown and there still remains one more aircraft to be delievered.

 

Israeli plane violates North Cyprus airspace

Turkey said on Thursday it had scrambled military jets to intercept an Israeli plane that violated northern Cypriot airspace this week, and demanded an explanation for the incursion.

An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment on the accusation. But the incident marked a fresh source of tension between the former allies.

Relations between Turkey and Israel fell apart after Israeli commandos raided the Mavi Marmara aid vessel in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and killed nine Turks in clashes with pro-Palestinian activists.

Monday’s reported air incursion coincided with tensions on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus over oil and gas exploration plans there, which could hinder U.N.-backed efforts to reunite wthe island.

“A plane belonging to Israel, the model of which could not be identified, violated KKTC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) airspace (above its territorial waters) five times,” the Turkish military said in a statement posted on its website.

“In response to this situation, our 2XF-16 plane based at Incirlik was scrambled and our planes carried out patrol flights in KKTC airspace, preventing the said plane from continuing to violate KKTC airspace,” said the statement.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said it had contacted Israel’s mission in Ankara, seeking an explanation for the incursion.

In Jerusalem, an Israeli military spokeswoman said she was checking the report.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when the Turkish military invaded the island after a short-lived Greek Cypriot coup engineered by the military junta then in power in Athens.

Turkey still keeps about 30,000 troops in the north and is the only nation that recognises the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

 

ENERGY EXPLORATION TENSIONS

The internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government reported an offshore natural gas discovery in December but its attempt to exploit the reserves has been challenged by Turkey.

Ankara has in turn given approval for Turkey’s state-run oil firm to carry out oil and gas exploration in six offshore areas around northern Cyprus, drawing condemnation from the Greek Cypriot government, which lays claim to the territory.

Israel has separately reported two major energy finds offshore in the sea separating it from Cyprus.

Israel has worked to enhance ties with Cyprus and Greece as its relations with Turkey have frayed.

The eastern Mediterranean has recently seen joint Israeli military manoeuvres with its partners, as well as long-distance training by Israel’s air force for a possible strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Israel uses warplanes and pilotless drones, as well as naval craft, to patrol its offshore natural gas fields.

Turkey stirred fears of a possible confrontation at sea by saying last year it would boost its naval patrols in the eastern Mediterranean.

But a senior Israeli military officer said that there had been no discernible increase in Turkish naval operations in Israel’s economic waters, which extend 187 km (117 miles) from its coast.