US firms seek Turkish defense contracts, partners

A mission of US defense and aerospace industry firms, which include Bell, Boeing and Sikorsky, will visit Istanbul and Ankara to seek local partners. The US commerce undersecretary will lead the mission.

A large business mission of U.S.-based defense and aerospace companies, including world giants such as Bell Helicopter, Boeing, General Electric and Sikorsky, will arrive in Turkey on Dec. 3 to seek local contracts and partnerships, according to a written statement by the U.S. Embassy in Ankara. U.S. Commerce Undersecretary Francisco J. Sanchez will lead the trade mission of 19 American firms, the statement said.

“Turkey is a priority market for the U.S. Department of Commerce – and the only one in Europe. More and more American firms are discovering the Turkish market and seeking partners in this growing economy. I look forward to returning to Turkey with leading U.S. defense and aerospace companies to facilitate partnerships with Turkish firms,” Sanchez said.
The trade mission will visit Ankara from Dec. 3 to Dec. 5 before going to Istanbul on Dec. 6 for two days.

“The mission will identify opportunities for U.S.-Turkish business partnerships and offer trade financing to qualified firms. This business development effort is part of ongoing efforts to increase bilateral trade and investment between the United States and Turkey, under the aegis of the Framework for Strategic Economic and Commercial Cooperation,” the statement said.

Turkish sector companies are asked to request face-to-face introductions with U.S. companies on the mission.

U.S. companies won two contracts in the past year and are viewed as front-runners in two others. In April 2011, Sikorsky Aircraft defeated Italy’s AgustaWestland in a competition to lead the co-production of more than 100 T-70 utility helicopters, a Turkish version of the Black Hawk International. In January 2012, Turkey’s top procurement body picked Bell Helicopter Textron for the country’s light police helicopters.

The U.S. is among the strongest bidders for Turkey’s estimated $4 billion Long-Range Air and Missile Defense Systems program.

‘Vibrat’ ties

“Since President [Barack] Obama’s visit to Turkey in 2009, we are adding to our vibrant political and defense relationships through increased bilateral trade and investment,” U.S. Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone noted in the press release.

“In 2011 we set a new record with nearly $20 billion in U.S.-Turkish trade. This year, we saw the first visit of a U.S. secretary of commerce to Turkey in 14 years and the first visit ever by a U.S. trade representative. Despite regional tensions, our trade and investment relationship is stronger than ever, building on Turkey’s economic success. In this way, we are fulfilling President Obama’s call to ‘renew the alliance between our nations and the friendship between our peoples.’”

The mission is organized the U.S. Mission’s Commercial Service in partnership with the Undersecretariat of the Defense Industry, Ankara Industry Chamber, Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges (TOBB), American Business Forum in Turkey and the Turkish Businessmen’s Association.

Aselsan to demostrate products at high-tech Radar Technology Conference

DefenceIQ’s Military Radar conference (27 – 29, November, London), now in its 10th year, is set to gather international military radar specialists and key players across industry, procurement and development including the Royal Air Force, French Navy, Royal Netherlands Navy, DSTL, DRDC, Selex Galileo, Aselsan and Raytheon.

Military Radar will provide insight from the military radar user and operator perspective on the latest radar systems across land, air and sea domains. There will be updates on the latest developments in radar where delegates will gain a complete picture from T/R modules and low cost multi-sensors to GMTI computational linguistic methods.

“Military Radar provides an excellent forum to interface with worldwide operational users and radar professionals to gain better understanding of radar capability needs and emerging radar trends to meet these needs”said Arnie Victor, Director, Strategy and Business Development, Raytheon.

Presentations at Military Radar include:

Military:

  • Netherlands SMART-L Upgrade: Thales Long-Range Air Defence Radar: led by Lieutenant Commander Ton de Kleijn, Head of Section Sensor Technology, DMO Netherlands

 

Defence Research:

  • Airborne Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar Technology: led by Dr Stephen Moore, Radar Team Leader, Joint Systems Department, DSTL

 

Industry Leaders:

  • ASELSAN Family of Air Defense Radars and Technology Building Blocks: led by, Dr Alpay Erdoğan, Manager, Air Defense Radars Programs, Aselsan

 

Speakers will outline the changing requirements and technological progress in semi-conductor materials (GaN, GaAs, Si1−xGex, InP) to advances in data processing. Millimeter Wave Radar and Military Applications: Diversity Means Superiority will be the core focus for two practical workshops at the event.

Ahead of the Military Radar gathering, DefenceIQ conducted an interview with Lieutenant Commander Mark Ruston, Requirements Manager at the UK Royal Navy on how the UK Royal Navy is rehauling radar for the modern era. In this interview Lt. Cdr. Ruston discusses major developments within the radar field where British Forces are concerned, including 4G remediation and upgrades for the 997 radar on the Type-23 frigate “HMS Iron Duke”.

The 10thAnnual Military Radar is sponsored by: Aselsan and Astra Microwave Products Limited.

Turkey closes Syrian border crossing after rebels plunder 30 trucks carrying food, medicine

Burnt trucks are seen on July 20, 2012 at the Syrian border crossing building between Syria and Turkey at Jarablus, which fell into rebel hands on Thursday after security forces pulled out.Photo by Reuters

After Syrian rebels allegedly robbed 30 trucks carrying goods from Turkey into Syria, Turkish officials announced the closure Saturday of a Syrian-Turkish border crossing.

The crossing at Cilvegozu would be shuttered in response to the attack, said Celalettin Lekesiz, governor of the Turkish state of Hatay. He said it was unclear when the crossing would reopen.

Nine trucks were set on fire in the attack. Food and medicine were stolen from other trucks, the drivers of which had been waiting days at the crossing.

Syria’s rebels have been making advances in recent days, taking control of multiple border crossings between Syria and Iraq, Turkey and Jordan.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he is sending an envoy to Syria to assess the situation there, as government forces and rebels fight for control of key cities in the country.

Ban said he will send Undersecretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous to Syria to assess the situation. Ladsous would be accompanied by the top UN military adviser, General Babacar Gaye, to lead the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria in this critical phase.

“We continue to push for a peaceful solution. And I am in contact with regional and international leaders, and I am working closely with the joint special envoy, Kofi Annan,” Ban told a press conference in Croatia.

His statement comes one day after the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to extend an observers’ mission by 30 days. The team’s mandate was extended with the understanding that the observers would assist a transition in Damascus or pull out if no political solution is found to end the 17-month conflict.

Ban’s statements also come after Russia and China vetoed a resolution to impose further sanctions on the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

DPA

Sex for military secrets

"The prostitute “accidentally” drives into the targeted officer’s car, seduces him, secretly films him in the act, and blackmails him"

How does a prostitute make an officer reveal military secrets? Rather easily, according to evidence assembled against a group of Turkish officers who allegedly ran a sex-for-secrets ring.

The prostitute “accidentally” drives into the targeted officer’s car, seduces him, secretly films him in the act, and blackmails him. At least 80 people, 60 of them serving officers, have been arrested in connection with the “escort girls” case. This was launched in 2009 after police in the western port city of Izmir were tipped off by an anonymous e-mail. (Because of the highly sensitive nature of the case the prosecution has refused to reveal all of the evidence and a formal indictment is still pending.) Arrest warrants for 50 more officers were issued this month, after the shooting down of a Turkish fighter jet by Syria, on the ground that the honey trap was aimed at army personnel working at radar installations. Nineteen prostitutes have also been arrested pending trial.

The army’s pro-Islamic critics have eagerly seized on the case as further proof of its decadence. At least 362 serving military officers are being held in a separate case called “Ergenekon” on charges of seeking to overthrow the government of the Justice and Development Party (AK). The army, NATO’s second largest, has toppled four governments so far. In 2007 it threatened to do so again when the AK nominated Abdullah Gul as president. The fact that Mrs Gul covers her head was deemed by the generals to pose a threat to Ataturk’s republic. AK refused to budge, Mr Gul was duly elected and the army’s hold has been weakening ever since.

Yet even the generals’ fiercest detractors are beginning to worry that efforts to bring them under civilian control may be degenerating into a vendetta. Western observers agree that, although the army almost certainly contains coup-plotters, overzealous investigators may have doctored some of the evidence against officers and that innocents are being caught in their net. Paradoxically prosecutors have shown little interest in well-documented atrocities committed by the army during its scorched-earth campaign against Kurdish separatist rebels. Ihsan Tezel, a defence lawyer in the “escort girls” affair, insists that the prosecution’s case rests exclusively on the contents of the hard drive of a computer seized from the home of a businessman who is accused of being one of the ringleaders of the gang.

Another ongoing sex-for-secrets case brought against 54 officers in Istanbul has run into trouble. At a recent hearing, a 52-year-old woman named as one of the prostitutes broke down in tears as she produced a medical certificate proving that she was a virgin. And there is no evidence to suggest that the defendants were selling secret documents. The presiding judge has called for all of them to be acquitted. A final verdict is expected by the end of July.

Gareth Jenkins, an expert on the Turkish army, says that the barrage of cases has had a devastating impact on army morale. “How can they function effectively when they live in constant fear of being arrested?” he asks. Amid Turkish threats of retaliation against Syria, the question is growing more pertinent by the day.

Economist

Turkey to increase ballistic missiles’ range

Missiles with a range of 2,500 kilometers are a realistic target according to Professor Yücel Altınbaşak, head of Turkey’s State Scientific Research Institute. However, analysts remain uncertain as to Turkey’s capacity or need to achieve this goal.

J-600T Yıldırım ballistic missile on an F-600T launching vehicle, based on a MAN 26.372 6x6 truck.

Turkey aims to build ballistic missiles with a range of 2,500 kilometers within the next two years, Turkish officials have said, but analysts remain uncertain as to whether the country needs, or can even achieve, such a capability.

Professor Yücel Altınbaşak, head of Turkey’s State Scientific Research Institute (TÜBİTAK), recently told reporters that the decision to build the ballistic missiles was made at a recent meeting of the High Board of Technology and in line with a request from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Altınbaşak said TÜBİTAK had already produced and delivered a missile with a range of 500 kilometers to the Turkish military and added that the missile had displayed a mere five-meter deviation from its target in field tests. In the next phase of the program this year, TÜBİTAK will first test the 1,500-kilometer missile before heading for the final goal of 2,500 kilometers.

Altınbaşak said building missiles with a range of 2,500-kilometer was a “realistic target for Turkey.” But analysts voiced doubts about Turkey’s ballistic ambitions.

“TÜBİTAK already has the technology to build the 185-kilometer stand-off-munitions (SOM) missiles. It may have reached the 500-kilometer range recently by diminishing the payload or by some other modifications. It is still dubious, however, how the tests for 500 kilometers went unnoticed globally,” a missile technology expert said.

A Middle East political expert said Turkey’s decision to produce cruise and ballistic missiles may mark a change in threat and security design perceptions.

“Why would the Turks need these missiles? Where will they use them? Against which threats? It is also intriguing that Turkey, which seeks a modern air force with deterrent firepower, is going along the path many rogue states with no modern air force capabilities have gone,” the specialist said.

Since 1997, Turkey has been a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) which was established in 1987 by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, and the United States.

The MTCR was created in order to curb the spread of unmanned delivery systems for nuclear weapons, specifically delivery systems that could carry a minimum payload of 500 kilograms a minimum of 300 kilometers.

Experts agree that the MTCR has been successful in helping to slow or stop several ballistic missile programs; Argentina, Egypt and Iraq abandoned their joint Condor II ballistic missile program, while Brazil, South Africa, South Korea and Taiwan also shelved or eliminated missile or space launch vehicle programs.

Some Eastern European countries, such as Poland and the Czech Republic, destroyed their own ballistic missiles to – in part – better their chances of joining MTCR.

But there is consensus that the MTCR regime has its limitations. India, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan (all non-members) continue to advance their missile programs. All four countries, with varying degrees of foreign assistance, have deployed medium-range ballistic missiles that can travel more than 1,000 kilometers and are exploring missiles with much greater ranges. Similarly, Iran has supplied missile production items to Syria.

The missile expert said Turkey’s announcement for ballistic missile production may ring alarm bells in some of the countries which produce “the ingredients” for these missiles.
“From now on Turkey may find it increasingly difficult to have access to some of the components it will need to achieve its missile ambitions,” the expert said. “Some countries may think it more appropriate to introduce limitations to the Turkish purchase of some technology.”

 By Umit Enginsoy, HDN

Iran Question & Turkey’s Own Nuclear Options

Western nations and Israel have employed all conceivable means to stop Iran’s nuclear program, from sabotage to assassination, from diplomatic pressure to economic embargoes and even cyber attacks.

Iranian airplanes carrying nuclear weapons-related technological equipment have been destroyed, nuclear laboratories have been blown up, imported equipment has been delivered to Iran in broken pieces, and scientists have been murdered. But the greatest blow thus far to Iran’s program came from a computer virus called Stuxnet, a joint US-Israeli venture. First an exact replica of the Iranian facilities was built by the Israelis in the desert at the Dimona nuclear site. This virus targeted command centers run by Siemens computers, which the Iranians were using to enrich uranium. The virus had unprecedented strength, with the ability to penetrate all Siemens systems worldwide, though it would only be active in the process of uranium enrichment. The virus made the tubes inside protective cylinders suddenly rotate very rapidly, ultimately breaking them apart.

It was in the latter half of 2009 that Stuxnet was released. Then, in the first months of 2010, the enrichment process in Iran began to falter. Thousands of tubes shattered due to Stuxnet, thus drastically slowing down its uranium enrichment program. By the end of the year, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that Tehran’s nuclear program had been set back many years. Meir Dagan, then head of Israel’s national intelligence agency, Mossad, also said that Iran would not be able to produce nuclear weapons before 2015. America and Israel believed that their computer virus had accomplished what many had expected a military attack to do. This also explains why Iran’s nuclear program was put on the geopolitical back burner until mid-2011.

Turkey’s role as mediator

In May 2010, as a result of Turkey’s mediation, Iran accepted an exchange of the low-grade uranium it then possessed. But although the US had agreed to an identical exchange just the previous November, this time it refused. This change of mind was almost certainly connected to the Stuxnet virus. At the end of 2009 it was still unclear what the virus would achieve. But by the next May, even though the public was in the dark, Washington surely knew the damage had been done by the virus, and knew that such an exchange would be to Iran’s advantage this time around. Moreover, from the other side of the fence, this is probably the same reason that Iran was ready to accept an offer that it had rejected just six months earlier.

As it happened, however, the West was once again mistaken in its analyses. Iran was able to quickly shake off the effects of Stuxnet. By mid-2011, Iran was able to run even more centrifuge tubes, in more developed models, which revolved even faster. An unexpected consequence of all these attempts to derail its nuclear program was that Iran simply gained more experience and skill with nuclear technology.

To produce nuclear weapons using uranium, the most critical part of the process is to enrich it to weapons grade, around 90 percent purity. Iran has now succeeded in the most difficult steps: obtaining uranium enriched to at least 20 percent. Getting 90 percent enrichment in a few months no longer appears very difficult. In the meantime, there is some evidence indicating that Iran has initiated work to assemble nuclear warheads. Western countries are now planning to try to stop Iran with an oil embargo. If that doesn’t do the job, the West may come to the conclusion that it has no choice but a military operation.

An attack on Iran?

It is known that the Obama administration does not look warmly on an attack on Iran, and that it opposed the idea of Israel single-handedly carrying out such an assault on more than one occasion. The biggest supporter of a military solution is Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who obviously hopes for an attack sometime this summer or fall, capitalizing on the competitive atmosphere of the US presidential campaign, and pressure Obama may possibly be facing. But even in Israel many stand opposed to an attack, including influential defense and security establishment figures, some prominent right-wing politicians and even members of the current government. For instance, after stepping down from the helm of Mossad, Dagan began an unusual media campaign. He publicly argued that attacking Iran would be “stupid,” and would cause a strategic catastrophe for Israel, leading to years of chaos in the region, along with adding legitimacy to Iran’s alleged reasons for developing nuclear weapons. Moreover, he contended, Israel lacks the military capability for an effective strike against Iran without help from the US.

What should Turkey do?

Even if a military attack on Iran — which currently seems unlikely — were to occur, Iran now possesses enough know-how that the production of nuclear weapons is ultimately only a matter of time and political will. In such a case, Turkey will face a thorny question: Should Turkey also have nuclear capabilities?

Nuclear weapons were used for the first and last time by the US during World War II, on two Japanese cities. In the decades since, the huge effect of nuclear weapons on the strategic balance of global politics has come not from their use but rather their mere possession. According to the dictates of international strategy, the power of a country is, until it is used, the power that others assume it has. During the more than half-century of the Cold War, the single greatest weight on the strategic balance between the two blocs was the Soviet Union’s deployment of nuclear weapons.

A sound strategy, one with a good chance of standing the test of time, should take into consideration what might look like unthinkable options. Strategic efforts should aim at avoiding surprises. History has seen many victories and defeats emerge from options that once seemed totally unlikely. The winners have often been those who were able to think outside the box, while the losers were undercut by their inability to do the same. Politics and diplomacy, in protecting the interests of a country and even its survival, must always run reasonable, even calculated, risks. A policy aiming for zero risk is a policy of impotence. The risks that diplomacy can run are proportional to the margin of safety enjoyed by a country. Additionally, the risks faced by a country tend to rise as the power and associated ambiguities of the other sides also rise.

If and when Iran conducts its first nuclear test and continues to build up a nuclear arsenal, this would deeply upset the strategic geopolitical balance and psychology in this region. In fact, what follows would be unlike anything ever seen in the Middle East. Israel currently maintains a policy of ambiguity regarding its nuclear weapons, to keep the world guessing what conditions would lead to their use. If Iran also finally manages to obtain nuclear weapons, it will probably take a similar path. Such developments in turn would sow ambiguity even denser than that of the tense Cold War period.

If Iran does go nuclear, the US will most likely offer its nuclear protection umbrella to a number of countries in the region, including Turkey. For Ankara to accept such an offer would be reasonable only if it doesn’t relinquish its own nuclear option. Otherwise Turkey could be, as circumstances develop, a strategic hostage to the US in the Middle East. Turkey has a legitimate right to consider all future possibilities. For instance, the US might choose to withdraw into its own shell, pulling back beyond the Atlantic. Or a new administration may emerge in Washington under the influence of the extremist pro-Israel and evangelical Christian groups. And if the current Iranian regime changes or even if it doesn’t, there is also the possibility — currently a remote one, to be sure — that Washington and Tehran could build an alliance of sorts. Each of these possibilities may force the need for nuclear capability for Turkey.

EU membership and the nuclear option

European Union membership would certainly reduce Turkey’s risks, and largely eliminate the nuclear option. The opposite scenario, in which Turkey’s EU membership prospects die and Iran builds up a nuclear arsenal, would pose a troublesome situation. In that case, to avoid getting stuck in a bottleneck of heightened risks, Turkey would need to seriously consider developing its own nuclear capability. To date, the relationship between a possible nuclear option for Turkey and its EU prospects has not received a great deal of attention. Yet this relationship ought to be handled carefully.

For the time being, Ankara could initiate a well thought-out and comprehensive nuclear technology program. It should aim to develop its technological know-how, essentially in pilot plant capacities for nuclear fission chain reaction materials. This could encompass various methods, including centrifuge and laser technologies. And finally, Turkey must also improve the range of its guided missiles.

By Haluk Özdalga

Serial Production Started in Key Weapon Programs

Turkey's nationally developed UMTAS anti-tank missiles and Cirit laser-guided rockets on display at a military exhibition in Istanbul.

The head of the under-secretariat for the defense industry, Murad Bayar, has outlined Turkey’s armaments objectives in coming years. This year, Turkey plans to finish tests on several national weapons systems that have been developed and move to the serial production phase. In the next stage, building on that momentum, Turkey plans to increase its arms exports as well as reduce its reliance on imports (Anadolu Ajansi, January 23).

During the past decade, Turkey has embarked on ambitious programs to reduce its dependence on external sources for the procurement needs of the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF), the second largest army in NATO. On the one hand, through stringent rules on procurement tenders, Ankara wanted to ensure that domestic firms will take part in the production of imported weapons systems, as well as enabling technology transfers. On the other hand, building on the accumulation of knowledge gained from these joint projects and the assistance and subsidies provided to the domestic arms industry and R&D activities, Turkey has been working to develop several “national” weapons systems. So far, Ankara’s ambitious national arms projects included the development of a national warship, main battle tank, attack helicopter, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and an infantry rifle.

Turkey has been cooperating with Italy’s Augusta-Westland on an attack helicopter project, which is aimed at resolving the Turkish army’s deficiencies in its fight against the PKK. Earlier, a prototype of this helicopter was developed, which is going through flight and weapons systems tests (EDM, September 29, 2009). Turkey is proud of the attack helicopter deal and sees it almost as an advertisement for its recent national projects. Turkey obtained the sole production license from Italy and introduced the necessary modifications, in order that it meets the specific operational needs of its army in mountainous terrain. Moreover, reflecting its self-confidence in indigenous technological abilities, the electronic systems and the software of the helicopter will be developed in Turkey, meaning it will have full control over the platform’s operation. The weapons installed on the helicopter will also come from national weapons developed domestically in recent years, including Cirit laser-guided rocket systems.

Bayar announced that they are planning to finish firing tests and start the first deliveries to the TAF this year, and complete the delivery of 51 helicopters in the coming years. Bayar also noted that once this platform is added to TAF’s inventory, it will have good marketing prospects. This system will be in demand, Bayar believes, especially in countries that are currently fighting terrorism, given that Turkey developed it with such considerations in mind. Several Middle Eastern countries are believed to be considering ATAK. After successfully passing the flight tests in summer 2011, ATAK has also been invited to submit its bid to a procurement tender in South Korea (Sabah, September 25, 2011).

Another major project is the main battle tank ALTAY, developed in partnership with South Korea’s Rotem (EDM, August 7, 2008). This project seeks to increase the TAF’s firepower in conventional warfare through the procurement of 250 third generation main battle tanks. Currently, ALTAY is in its design phase and the initial deliveries are expected to start from 2013. Bayar noted that this year they plan to develop the first prototype and start the necessary tests.

Turkey also has been working on another ambitious project to bolster its surveillance and intelligence gathering capabilities. In need of actionable intelligence in its fight against the PKK, Turkey has relied on the United States and Israel to either lease or buy UAVs. This cooperation, however, proved difficult to sustain given the tensions encountered in its bilateral relations with Israel and occasionally the US. Turkey has launched an indigenous medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV system program that will initially meet the TAF’s reconnaissance requirements, and later a modified version with combat capability will be developed. The prototypes are going through several tests. Following the maturity tests, Bayar expect the five prototypes to be put into operation and their serial production will start. Ankara sees this project also as a sign of prestige, as it will join the few nations with this technology and eventually develop the potential to export it. Similarly, Bayar expects that the first indigenous satellite developed by Turkey, the Gokturk-2, will be launched into space this year.

Another project has been the development of a national infantry rifle. Turkey is currently conducting tests on a rifle designed and developed domestically, and anticipates moving to the mass production stage this year. The country has also been running a national warship program, MILGEM, to develop a littoral combat capacity. Under the project, the Turkish Navy will be supplied with eight corvettes and four frigates, as well as exploring possibilities for exports. The first corvette has already been delivered, while the second is undergoing tests.

Recently, Ankara announced plans to develop a national fighter jet. Bayar described it as a long term objective, which would mark Turkey’s elevation to a higher class in arms producing countries. Turkey is currently considering this option and will soon initiate two-year long feasibility studies. If the project is deemed feasible, further work will be authorized to develop the first prototype in ten years’ time and serial production in the following decade. Turkey has also announced another ambitious program to develop long-range missiles with a range of up to 2,500 km (www.trt.net.tr, January 13).

Although Turkey remains a major arms importer, through these programs it is now able to procure slightly more than half of its needs from domestic sources. Currently, Turkey is producing short range missiles, armored vehicles and personnel carriers, training aircraft, small UAVs, etc. Especially in advanced weapons systems, Turkey remains dependent on imports, and addressing that deficiency is one of the objectives of the procurement programs. In the future, while seeking to increase the share of domestic contributions, Turkey will also work to bolster its export figures to $1 billion, from last year’s $800 million. Overall, two principles will underpin Turkey’s defense industry policies, as underlined by Bayar: depth, i.e., increasing the national contributions in the new platforms through the development of sub-systems; and sustainability, or, building a viable arms industry that can sustain mass production at competitive prices.

By Saban Kardas

Turkey threatens intervention into Iraq

Relations between the Turkish and Iraqi governments have deteriorated sharply. In a speech to parliament on Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, the head of a Sunni Islam-based religious party, accused his Iraqi counterpart, Nouri al-Maliki, the leader of a Shiite-coalition, of promoting sectarian violence against the Sunni minority in Iraq.

Erdogan warned: “Maliki should know that if you start a conflict in Iraq in the form of sectarian clashes it will be impossible for us to remain silent. Those who stand by with folded arms watching brothers massacre each other are accomplices to murder.”

Erdogan was responding to complaints by Maliki that Turkey has been interfering in Iraqi domestic politics through its support for the largely Sunni-based Iraqiya coalition, which is engaged in a fierce power struggle with the government in Baghdad.

The implications of Erdogan’s statement are unmistakable. They amount to a direct threat that Turkey will support an intervention into Iraq on the same pretext of “defending civilians” used to justify the NATO-led intervention to oust Gaddafi regime in Libya. In the case of Iraq, intervention would be justified with the allegation that Maliki is persecuting the country’s Sunnis.

The Turkish stance toward Maliki is inseparable from the broader US-backed drive to refashion geopolitical relations in the Middle East and, above all, to shatter the regional influence of Iran. US allies such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the other Gulf state monarchies—all dominated by Sunni elites—have lined up with Washington against Shiite-ruled Iran. They are using inflammatory sectarian language to try to galvanise support for a policy that threatens to trigger a regional war.

The Syrian regime, which is a longstanding Iranian ally and based on an Allawite Shiite ruling stratum, has been targeted for “regime change.” The current Iraqi government, while it is the direct creation of the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, is also viewed as unacceptable by the regional US allies. The Shiite factions forming the Maliki government have longstanding ties with the Iranian religious establishment. Maliki has refused to support an ongoing US military presence in Iraq or economic sanctions, let alone military aggression, against Syria and Iran.

Iraqiya, which was part of the ruling coalition, campaigned aggressively to weaken the political dominance of the Shiite parties in the lead-up to the withdrawal of US combat troops in December. Sunni leaders accused Maliki of reneging on an agreement to preside over a “national unity” government and pressured him to place the main security ministries under the direction of Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi.

Allawi, a secular Shiite, had been a long-time American collaborator before the US invasion and was installed by the US in 2004 as the “interim” prime minister of Iraq. He sanctioned the military repression of the Sunni population and atrocities such as the destruction of the largely Sunni city of Fallujah. Despite this history, he was adopted by the Sunni elites as their main representative after the effective collapse of the anti-occupation insurgency. His qualifications are his hostility to the Shiite religious parties, his anti-Iranian Arab nationalism and his close connections to Washington.

Attempts to elevate Allawi, with clear support from the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have suffered something of a shipwreck. Maliki and his Shiite-based Da’wa Party, which was repressed by the Sunni-dominated Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein, responded with a pre-emptive strike against the challenge to their grip on power.

Hundreds of ex-Baath Party members, particularly former senior military officers, have been rounded up and detained. Allawi alleged this month that more than 1,000 members of his and other parties opposed to Maliki had been arrested in recent months. He claimed they had been subjected to torture to extract false confessions of committing “terrorism.” There has been a growing number of indiscriminate bombings of civilian areas and religious events by suspected Sunni extremists. Last week, 34 men accused of terrorism were executed in a single day.

In the most high-profile case of alleged Sunni “terrorism,” the bodyguards of Iraqiya Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi—one of the country’s highest ranking politicians—were detained and allegedly tortured. They were paraded on national television in late December to accuse the Sunni leader of personally directing a sectarian death squad.

Hashemi has only escaped arrest by taking refuge in the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. He has been charged with crimes that carry a death sentence.

Maliki responded to a walkout of Iraqiya ministers from his cabinet by having their offices locked and stripping them of their political responsibilities. The Iraqi parliament has continued to sit despite a boycott by most Iraqiya members.

Last Friday, the Iraqiya deputy governor of the majority Sunni province of Diyala, who agitated last year for regional autonomy, was seized by secret police operating under Maliki’s command. He has been charged with “terrorist activities.”

The present crisis could rapidly lead to the eruption of civil war and potentially fracture Iraq along sectarian lines, drawing in other regional powers such as Turkey and Iran. The majority of the 300,000-strong Iraqi military are Shiites. While poorly trained and equipped, they have a degree of allegiance to Maliki’s government.

A confrontation is looming between the Maliki government and the autonomous Kurdish region in the north. Last week, a Shiite politician advocated an economic blockade of the Kurdish region unless Vice President Hashemi was handed over for trial. The Kurdish government has its own 200,000-strong armed forces.

Following the 2003 invasion, the US fostered sectarian divisions as a means of undermining the previous Baathist elite and blocking a unified resistance by ordinary working people against the occupation and collapse of living standards. Now the US is encouraging its regional allies to back the Sunni and Kurdish elites against the Maliki government, with reckless indifference for the rapidly escalating violence.

By James Cogan, WSWS

Boeing wins $3.48 bln missile defense contract

Boeing beat out Lockheed Martin to retain its position as the prime contractor for the U.S. long-range missile shield, the Pentagon said on Dec. 30.

The U.S. Defense Department said it was awarding Boeing a $3.48 billion, seven-year contract to develop, test, engineer and manufacture missile defense systems.

A team led by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon had vied with Boeing to expand and maintain the “Ground-based Midcourse Defense” (GMD) hub of layered antimissile protection.
Boeing partnered with Northrop Grumman to retain the work.

“We believe the government conducted a fair and open competition, making the right decision for the future of the program,” Norm Tew, Boeing vice president and program director of GMD, said in a statement.

‘Shield against Iran, North Korea’

The GMD contract’s value to Boeing will have been about $18 billion from January 2001, when it formally became the system’s prime contractor, through the end of this year, Boeing has said.

GMD uses radar and other sensors plus a more than 32,000-kilometer fiber optic communications network to cue interceptors in silos at Fort Greely, Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The shield has been shaped initially to guard against ballistic missiles that could be fired by Iran and North Korea. It is the only U.S. defense against long-range missiles that could be tipped with chemical, biological or nuclear warheads.

Reuters

China tries to become a space power

China successfully launched an experimental craft on Thursday paving the way for its first space station amid a blaze of national pride, bringing the growing Asian power closer to matching the U.S. and Russia with a long-term manned outpost in space.

A rocket carrying the country’s first space laboratory module lifts off on Thursday.
A rocket carrying the country’s first space laboratory module lifts off on Thursday.

The box car-sized Tiangong-1 module was shot into space from the Jiuquan launch center on the edge of the Gobi Desert aboard a Long March 2FT1 rocket. It is to move into an orbit 350 kilometers above the Earth and conduct surveys of Chinese farmland using special cameras, along with experiments involving growing crystals in zero gravity.

China then plans to launch an unmanned Shenzhou 8 spacecraft to practice remote-controlled docking maneuvers with the module, possibly within the next few weeks. Two more missions, at least one of them manned, are to meet up with it next year for further practice, with astronauts staying for up to one month. The 8.5-ton module, whose name translates as “Heavenly Palace-1,” is to stay aloft for two years, after which two other experimental modules are to be launched for additional tests before the actual station is launched in three sections between 2020 and 2022.

 

Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff

Friday, September 30, 2011

BEIJING