Moscow to NATO: Do not extend missile shield

Russia cautioned the U.S. and its NATO allies Aug. 8 against plans to extend an anti-missile shield into northern European seas.

On a visit to Norway, Russia’s ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin deplored the lack of any firm guarantees from the alliance that American ships fitted with anti-missile technology would not be deployed in northern waters.

“The very fact of deploying U.S. military missile defense infrastructure in the Northern seas is a real provocation with regard to the process of nuclear disarmament”, said Rogozin at a press conference.

“Why is no one giving guarantees that a U.S. fleet equipped with Aegis interceptor systems won’t be deployed in the Northern seas?” he said.

“I’m sure that if there were no such plans in reality, then I would have been given a very definite negative answer. I didn’t get any firm answer to this question,” he said, adding that Russia had repeatedly asked the U.S. for answers.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed at a NATO summit in November to explore the possibility of cooperating on a system to protect Europe’s population from the threat of ballistic missiles from countries such as Iran.

Fearing that the system would undermine its nuclear deterrent, Moscow has since been demanding a legally binding guarantee that the missile shield would not be aimed at Russia.

Rogozin also called on Norway’s foreign affairs minister, Jonas Gahr Stoere, to oppose the plan.

“The countries that are going to join in participating in these plans are going to share the responsibility like the initiators of that project,” he said, warning Europe “not to hide behind the back of the United States.”

Despite the lack of consensus, NATO adopted a plan to forge ahead with the shield in June.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who is overseeing continuing talks between NATO defense ministers and Russia, said he was optimistic that a deal on guarantees could be reached in time for the next NATO summit hosted by the United States in May 2012.

The missile shield project will not be completed before 2018, NATO officials estimate.

AFP

Israel’s Lieberman to flotilla: give up your plans

Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman

Israel’s foreign minister urged would-be participants of the pro-Palestinian flotilla to give up their plans and deliver their aid to UN supervised ports for distribution.

Avigdor Lieberman spoke to reporters Thursday after meeting with Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, on issues that both men said included the flotilla as well as efforts by Palestinian leaders to gain UN recognition of a Palestinian state.

Spindelegger said that Austria had not yet made up its mind on UN recognition, adding that he preferred a joint EU approach to the issue

Between 300 and 400 international activists aboard 10 ships had been due to sail this week to Gaza to try and break the naval blockade Israel imposed after Hamas militants overran the Palestinian territory in 2007. But their departure has been beset by delays that the activists blame in part on Israel.

Last year, an Israeli raid on a similar flotilla killed nine activists on a Turkish vessel with each side blaming the other for the violence. On Thursday, Lieberman refused to be drawn on what means the Jewish state would apply this time to prevent a breach of the blockade.

Instead, he said Israel wanted organizers to bring their aid to ports “where there are UN authorities” who will the distribute the supplies.

Lieberman also said Iran is using the smoke screen of Mideast unrest to advance both its missile and nuclear programs.

Zaman/AP

Turkey’s options in handling the Syrian crisis

by Hasan Karaahmet

As Syria’s Assad regime continues to struggle in containing the widespread uprisings and demonstrations for a more democratic, progressive political system throughout the country, neighboring Turkey is facing an increasingly difficult humanitarian crisis just north of the long border.

Last Thursday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mr. Ahmet Davutoglu spoke with his Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Moallem, about the changing security environment in Syria and implications for Turkey. Movement of Syrian troops north near the Turkish border in an attempt to control the outflow of Syrian refugees into Turkey was among the critical subjects the two ministers discussed. It is no secret now that the situation at the border and increasing numbers of Syrian refugees in Turkey, now approaching some 20,000, is creating tensions between the two countries.

Thus far, Turkey’s AKP government has followed a bi-polar political strategy in handling the Syrian crisis. It publicly criticized Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while quietly advising the same regime on how to contain and eliminate the opposition using tangible, progressive reforms. On the other hand, Turkey also hosted open platforms for Syrian opposition leaders on Turkish soil, in order to provide guidance and discuss their strategies in toppling the Assad regime and achieving a higher political presence in Syria.

Currently, Turkey seems to have three options in peacefully diffusing the threatening situation beyond its southern border and stopping the inflow of Syrian refugees.

  • (1) The first option Turkey is suggesting to Syria involves removal of Bashar al-Assad’s brother, Maher al-Assad, who leads the Syrian Republican Guard and is primarily responsible for killing and mistreatment of a great number of Syrian opposition members. Turkish authorities have wisely avoided condemning Bashar al-Assad and kept their focus on Maher instead. According to a June 18th report by Al Arabiya, an emissary of Turkish Prime Minister Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to Syria to ask Bashar to fire his brother. This suggestion requires Maher to be exiled to Turkey or another suitable country where he would be monitored and kept away from militancy and interfering with Syrian internal politics. Turkey points out that such a move would portray Bashar as a truly progressive, reformist leader who is willing to exile his brother for the greater good of Syria.

Some western analysts generally unfamiliar with the region point out that this option undermines the role of Maher in keeping different factions of the Syrian Armed Forces together and suggest that exiling Maher may push Syria into an explosive infighting and eventually even partitioning. I, however, disagree with this observation as I believe it is the Assad family as a whole and its surrogates within the Syrian state that provide the said unifying function. Power of the al-Assad clan is currently personified in Bashar al-Assad, and any decision he makes, even as radical as firing his brother, will be readily digestible by the forces in Syria that determine the political and economic dynamics in that country. So long as the Alawites’ traditional hold of economic power in Syria’s western coastal cities is not damaged, their support of Bashar and the al-Assad family in general will remain strong.

That said, we should not forget that the former Syrian President, Bashar’s father Hazef al-Assad did successfully exile his younger brother Rifaat al-Assad, also a military man, after a coup attempt, a move that demonstrated the reach of his power and strengthened his regime for years to come. I believe the same may as well be the case for his sons.

  • (2) The second option Turkey is working on for Syria is similar to the Lebanese political model, where a confessional system based on a 1932 census is in effect that just about equally divides power among Lebanon’s Christian and Muslim factions. Proposal for Syria would similarly allocate the power, and hence resources, somewhat equally among the country’s majority Sunni Arabs, Turkmens and Kurds, and minority Alawites, Christians and Druze. This new system would create strong checks and balances that would prevent either side from dominating the economy or monopolizing the politics of Syria.

Turkey is ready to provide all the assistance needed for accomplishing this. If completed successfully, it would score an important point for Turkey in the country’s ambitious mission to become a prestigious leader and a secular democracy model for the Islamic world.

  • (3) The third option proposes the legalization of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (MB). At the moment, membership in the group is not only outlawed in Syria, but also punishable by death. Turkey says legalization of the Syrian MB and turning the group into a legitimate political party would limit its militancy and draw the movement closer to a more peaceful, political struggle. This would, in effect, dramatically defuse the Syrian crisis.

Al-Assad is however seems to be currently against the idea as it bears the potential for eventually growing in power via unification of the majority Sunni base turning into electoral votes and undermining the established power of Al-Assad’s Baath party and the economic monopoly of Syria’s Alawites.

It will be interesting to see the events unfold and watch Turkey make its moves before the crisis grows into an even bigger refugee crisis, and with the movements of even more Syrian military units into the border region, starts posing a national security danger for Turkey.

TR Defence

Greece striving for more debt

.Greece needs to impose ever more unpopular austerity on a restive people on June 28, with the European Union placing its faith in Athens to clear parliamentary opposition and a general strike.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said Friday he is negotiating a new bailout worth some 110 billion euros, as Europe enters a crucial 10 day period to ringfence the euro crisis.

The Greek premier is in the eye of a storm threatening financial markets, the unity of Europe’s 17-nation currency area, and even the EU – with the United States warning of a potential to drag down world economic recovery.

“We are talking about a huge, huge amount,” the Agence France-Presse quoted Papandreou as saying after formally requesting aid at a two-day European Union summit in Brussels.

While he said it was “too early to give a precise amount,” the final sum would be “similar to the first aid package” in May 2010, which was not enough to prevent the government in Athens from slipping ever deeper into the red.

The actual size, Papandreou admitted, “depends on the participation of the private creditors,” those banks, pension funds and insurers that the EU wants to contribute to a rescue by way of an “informal and voluntary” rollover.

Greece needs to impose ever more unpopular austerity on a restive people on June 28, with the European Union placing its faith in Athens to clear parliamentary opposition and a general strike.

Even before the new bailout, Greece owes the equivalent of a year-and-a-half of total national economic output, some 350 billion euros.

British banks face an indirect risk from Greece’s financial crisis despite having a “remarkably small” direct exposure to the country, the governor of the Bank of England said Friday.

Mervyn King called for greater disclosure of sovereign and banking exposures, and of other risks which may be lurking on balance sheets, to bolster confidence in the broader financial system, The Associated Press reported.

“If there is uncertainty about exposures and a lack of transparency and people simply do not know which other institutions could be at risk because of their direct and indirect exposures, then there is always the risk that people may feel it’s just not worth continuing to roll over funding to institutions,” King told a news conference.

On Friday, the euro slid against the dollar amid persistent concerns the Greek debt crisis spreading contagion across the eurozone.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday that leaders had struck “an important political accord for the stabilisation of the euro,” which Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme said took just half an hour to thrash out.

Merkel stressed the EU had “encouraged Ireland, Portugal and Greece to follow the roadmap set down with the troika” of the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF that is monitoring the rescues.

Portugal measures

Portugal’s new Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho, meanwhile, said his coalition government is preparing to accelerate and possibly broaden austerity measures the country promised in return for a $110 billion bailout.

Coelho, who took office earlier this week at the head of a center-right administration, says he is also considering a swifter reorganization of loss-making state companies.

Passos Coelho said after a European Union summit Friday in Brussels that he will announce details of his plans next week.

HDN

Turkey’s Actions May Trigger NATO Confrontation With Syrian Military

Last week, a feature by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton excoriating the political leadership of Syria appeared in the London-based Arabic-language daily Asharq Al-Awsat. Saudi-supported and printed in twelve locations, it is considered to be among the most influential newspapers in the Arab world.

As such, her comments (in English and Arabic) were intended to signal to Arab readers and the world at large that the American position toward Damascus is becoming more stringent and confrontational, evoking Clinton’s statements toward the leadership of Ivory Coast and Libya earlier in the year.

Her characteristically imperious, contemptuous and inflammatory comments, indeed threats, included:

“In his May 19 speech, President Obama echoed demonstrators’ basic and legitimate demands…President Assad, he said, could either lead that transition or get out of the way.

“It is increasingly clear that President Assad has made his choice.”

“…President Assad is showing his true colors by embracing the repressive tactics of his ally Iran and putting Syria onto the path of a pariah state.

“By following Iran’s lead, President Assad is placing himself and his regime on the wrong side of history…”

“If President Assad believes he can act with impunity because the international community hopes for his cooperation on other issues, he is wrong about this as well. He and his regime are certainly not indispensable.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on June 18 that the Washington administration is preparing a case against Syrian President Bashar Assad and other government officials at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. The same newspaper feature added that “The U.S. is also exploring ways to more directly target Syria’s oil and gas revenue…”

On June 14 four members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, including the military alliance’s three European powerhouses – Britain, France, Germany and Portugal – proposed a draft resolution in the United Nations Security Council aimed at Syria. Three days later in Berlin German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed their governments would push for a new UN resolution targeting Syria. In Sarkozy’s words: “France, hand in hand with Germany, calls for tougher sanctions against Syrian authorities who are conducting intolerable and unacceptable actions and repression against the population.”

The USS George H.W. Bush nuclear-powered supercarrier and its assigned carrier strike group and carrier air wing – with 9,000 sailors, 70 aircraft and four guided missile destroyers and cruisers – is in the Mediterranean Sea not far from the Syrian coast. One of the destroyers, USS Truxtun, just left the Israeli port city of Haifa after a two-day stopover.

The USS Monterey guided missile cruiser is docked off the Georgian Black Sea city of Batumi currently and will re-enter the Mediterranean soon. Deployed as the first warship assigned to the U.S.-NATO potential first-strike pan-European interceptor missile system, it can launch Tomahawk cruise missiles as well as Standard Missile-3 interceptor missiles.

The guided missile destroyer USS Barry left Gaeta, Italy where nine other US. warships have been stationed, on June 17 after a five-day port visit. USS Barry is part of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, headed by the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, used at the beginning of the U.S.-NATO Libyan campaign in March and currently in the Mediterranean.

The Pentagon and its allies – every nation in the Mediterranean is now a NATO member or partner except for Libya, Syria, Cyprus (under renewed and intensified pressure to join the bloc’s Partnership for Peace program) and Lebanon (whose coastline has been blockaded by NATO states’ military vessels since 2006) – have the military hardware in place for a replication of the 95-day war against Libya directed at Syria: Scores of warplanes on carriers and on bases in Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Turkey and guided missile ships ready to launch Tomahawk missiles.

On June 19 Ersat Hurmuzlu, senior adviser to Turkish President Abdullah Gul, told the United Arab Emirates-based Al Arabiya television channel that Syria has less than a week to respond to what Reuters described as “calls for change.” Hurmuzlu’s exact words were:

“The demands in this field will be for a positive response to these issues within a short period that does not exceed a week.

“The opposite of this, it would not be possible to offer any cover for the leadership in Syria because there is the danger …that we had always been afraid of, and that is foreign intervention.”

Although the last sentence can be read as either warning or threat, it is in fact the second. The statement as a whole is an ultimatum.

Since the war against Libya was launched by U.S. Africa Command under the codename Operation Odyssey Dawn to the present NATO-run Operation Unified Protector in place since March 31, air operations have been run from NATO’s Air Command Headquarters for Southern Europe in Izmir, Turkey.

In March Turkey supplied five ships and a submarine for the blockade of Libya’s coast and on March 28 Hurriyet Daily News announced that Turkey was “assuming control of the Benghazi airport, and sending naval forces to patrol the corridor between the rebel-held city and Crete,” quoting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan:

“Turkey said ‘yes’ to three tasks within NATO: the takeover of Benghazi airport for the delivery of humanitarian aid, the task about control of the air corridor and the involvement of Turkish naval forces in the corridor between Benghazi and Crete.”

In 2003 the U.S. ambassador to NATO at the time, Nicholas Burns, stated in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

“NATO needs to pivot from its inward focus on Europe – which was necessary and appropriate during the Cold War – to an outward focus on the arc of countries where most of the threats are today – in Central and South Asia, and in the Middle East.

“NATO’s mandate is still to defend Europe and North America. But we don’t believe we can do that by sitting in Western Europe, or Central Europe, or North America. We have to deploy our conceptual attention and our military forces east and south. NATO’s future, we believe, is east, and is south. It’s in the Greater Middle East.”

Earlier this month Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul announced that Izmir will also be the new home of the Alliance’s Land Force Command, consolidating and transferring ground forces currently stationed in Germany and Spain to the Izmir Air Station.

On June 17 Turkey took over command of Standing NATO Maritime Group-2 which, with Standing NATO Maritime Group-1, is part of the NATO Response Force and centers its activities in the Mediterranean. Each group consists of between 4-8 warships – destroyers and frigates – and since 2005 has expanded its missions through the Suez Canal to the Gulf of Aden and the Somalia coast, circumnavigating the African continent in 2007 and traveling the length of the Atlantic coast of the U.S., then entering the Caribbean Sea the same year, the first time NATO had ever deployed to the Caribbean. The NATO naval groups have also sailed to Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, the Persian Gulf and the Baltic Sea among other locations.

Turkey hosted a conference of Syrian opposition forces called “Change in Syria” from May 1-June 2 in the city of Antalya. Although held under the sponsorship of the Egyptian-based National Organisation of Human Rights, logistics and security were provided by the host country.

Had Syria allowed a gathering of Turkish opposition groups whose express intention was the overthrow of the government in Ankara, one can only imagine the Turkish administration’s reaction.

On June 13 Britain’s The Guardian, since the Balkans crisis began in the early 1990s never slow to fan the flames of moral panic over humanitarian crises, with techniques ranging from hyperbole to hysterics, in order to alarm and neutralize its readership into acquiescence to Western military action (while claiming formally, if not convincingly, that it is not advocating the latter), ran an editorial titled “Syria: Butchery, while the world watches,” which let the cat out of the bag regarding the prospect of U.S. and NATO military intervention in Syria by stating:

“Turkey, a member of Nato, could yet drag the west in, if it decides its own interests require action to defend its borders from the [Syrian] refugees The world would then pay a high price indeed for having pretended that Assad was somebody else’s problem.”

On June 19 the major Turkish daily newspaper Zaman quoted Veysel Ayhan of the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies harking back to the rationale for NATO’s first military actions 16 years ago:

“Remember when NATO was accused by the international media and public of not being able to prevent 8,000 Muslim Bosnians from being murdered in front of the world’s eyes? As a member of NATO and a country whose border is about to witness such a massacre by the Syrian army, Turkey will not allow such a thing to happen again, especially before its own eyes.”

Last week Turkey’s President Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu were reported to have toughened demands on Syria in a meeting with President Assad’s special envoy Hasan Turkmani in Ankara, and on January 18 Al Arabiya reported that Ankara had dispatched an envoy to Damascus to demand that Assad’s brother Maher relinquish his command of the Republican Guard and the Fourth Armored Division.

Zaman recently cited what was identified as a pro-government Syrian official saying to the United Arab Emirates-based daily The National:

“The West wants to put the region under Turkish control like in the Ottoman days. Turkey is a NATO member and embodies a safe kind of Islam for the West, so they have done a deal to give everything to Ankara.”

Should a conflict erupt between Turkey and Syria on their border, NATO will be obligated under its Article 5 collective military assistance clause to enter the fray on Turkey’s side. Should NATO intend opening hostilities against Syria, no better pretext could be devised than that scenario.

In February of 2003, on the eve of the U.S. and British invasion of Iraq, in NATO’s words “Turkey requested NATO assistance under Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty.”

“NATO’s Integrated Air Defence System in Turkey was put on full alert and augmented with equipment and personnel from other NATO commands and countries.”

Four Alliance Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft were deployed from their base in Germany to the Forward Operating Base in Konya, Turkey. Three Dutch and two American Patriot missile batteries were deployed to the country in March of that year, and “Preparations were made to augment Turkey’s air defence assets with additional aircraft from other NATO countries.”

Article 4 of the 1949 Washington Treaty, NATO’s founding document, states:

“The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.”

Article 5 says:

“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”

If Turkey opens armed hostilities with its neighbor, the conflict will not remain a local one for long.

Scoop

Aselsan bags national missile system contract

An artist's conception of the Turkish Medium-Range Air Defence System (T-MALAMIDS)

Turkey’s leading military electronics company Aselsan and the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries, or SSM, have signed two major contracts for the development of indigenous low and medium altitude air defence missile systems, the company revealed in a special press release on Monday.

Request for proposal for the low level air defence system (T-LALADMIS) was first issued by SSM in September 2008, and entails the procurement of 18 self-propelled, armored air defence systems, support and training equipment, maintenance tools, spare parts and other relevant services and documents required for the efficient operation of the systems. An option also exists for 27 additional such systems in the immediate future.

Also awarded to Aselsan is a medium-range air defence system development program, dubbed T-MALADMIS, and it entails direct procurement of one medium altitude air defense missile system composed of one battalion headquarters and headquarters company and three batteries, each of which has a sufficient amount of launchers, missiles, radars, command-control and communication systems and other support equipment.

Cost of Aselsan’s T-LALADMIS program design and development is 314,920,445 EURO, while T-MALADMIS amounts to 241,392,218 EURO.

Turkey is also seeking to acquire 12 long-range air defence systems as part of SSM’s $4 billion T-LORADMIS program. USA-based Patriot PAC-3 and Russia’s S-300 are currently favorites in a tough competition against China’s HQ-9 and European Aster-30 air defence systems.

France Says Sale of Warships to Russia ‘Imminent’

The signing of a contract for France to sell four Mistral-class aircraft carriers to Russia is “imminent,” a French defense ministry spokesman said June 16.

The comment by deputy spokesman Philippe Ponties came ahead of a visit by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to the Le Bourget air show in Paris, which opens on June 20.

“I do not know where or when, but I can confirm that the signing is imminent,” Ponties told reporters.

The two countries said in May they were poised to seal the deal after long and delicate negotiations over the price and the sharing of technology involved in the amphibious assault craft.

The deal has angered some of Russia’s neighbors such as Georgia and Baltic states who fear an expansion of the military might of their former Soviet master.

AFP

Turkish researchers make nanotechnology breakthrough

HDN image

A group of Turkish researchers at an Ankara university have manufactured the longest and thinnest nanowires ever produced, by employing a novel method to shrink matter 10-million fold.

The invention, discovered at Bilkent University’s National Nanotechnology Research Center, or UNAM, is set to appear on the cover of Nature Material magazine’s July edition.

“At this moment, we may not even be able to predict what things will be produced [in the future] using this method,” said Associate Professor Mehmet Bayýndýr who led the research team.

The new method could provide advancements in many fields, including the production of more effective cells for solar panels, DVD’s with massively enhanced capacity, electronics and other novel applications that could be used in medical imaging technologies, according to the Anatolia news agency.

The research team was trying to obtain a patent for their invention, as well as preparing to apply to the Guinness Book of Records for producing the world’s longest and thinnest semiconductor nanowire.

The new technique includes a new thermal size-reduction process to produce indefinitely long nanowire and nanotube arrays with various materials, Bayýndýr said Friday.

“We are enjoying [the fact that] we are getting higher amounts of projects than scientists in developed countries, despite the global economic crisis,” he said.

The project was funded by the Scientific and Research Council of Turkey, or TÜBITAK, the Turkish Academy of Sciences, or TÜBA, and the State Planning Organization, or the DPT.

HDN

Saudi Arabia Mulling BMD-Capable Destroyers

The U.S. Navy briefed Saudi officials in late May on the capabilities of DDG-51 destroyers, such as the USS Sterett, above. (U.S. Navy)

Saudi Arabia, which has long considered the purchase of American littoral combat ships (LCS) with a lightweight Aegis combat system, is contemplating the acquisition of new DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyers that could be fitted with ballistic missile defense (BMD) capability.

The U.S. Navy briefed Saudi officials in late May on the capabilities of the destroyers, which would be far more powerful than any ship currently in the kingdom’s service.

The U.S. Navy would not confirm whether the brief included BMD options, but sources did not deny that it was part of the presentation.

Saudi Arabia has been looking at Aegis-equipped LCS designs from both Lockheed Martin and Austal USA since mid-2008. Those designs, which range in size from 3,000 to about 4,000 tons, would be equipped with SPY-1F lightweight Aegis radars similar to those fitted on Norwegian frigates. But the SPY-1F lacks the fidelity and software to perform the BMD mission, and the ships probably wouldn’t have the electrical capacity to power a BMD radar.

The U.S. Navy’s 9,100-ton DDG 51s are the heart of the fleet’s BMD force. About 20 U.S. cruisers and destroyers have had their SPY-1D Aegis systems upgraded to perform the BMD mission, and more are being backfitted. Future DDG 51s will be built with the BMD capability.

A land-based Aegis BMD system also is under development by the U.S. for deployment in Europe as part of that continent’s missile defense shield.

Capt. Cate Mueller, spokesperson for the U.S. Navy’s acquisition office, confirmed that the “non-binding price and availability (P&A) rough order of magnitude estimate was delivered in May” to the Saudis.

The brief, she said, included information on the capabilities and prices of “medium surface combat ships with integrated air and missile defense capability, helicopters, patrol craft and shore infrastructure.”

Saudi Arabia is in the midst of a major weapon upgrade for its armed services. The Saudi Naval Expansion Program II is said to be considering the purchase of up to a dozen new warships worth, according to various media accounts, between $20 billion and $23 billion.

The recent U.S. brief provided options that included buying a mix of destroyers and LCS vessels, sources said. One source said the Saudis were considering the purchase of two destroyers plus an unknown number of LCS vessels.

No decisions have been made by the Saudis. Back-and-forth talks are continuing between the countries, a Pentagon source said, with no deal imminent.

The Navy and Lockheed Martin are awaiting feedback from the Saudis, Paul Lemmo, Lockheed’s head of Mission Systems and Sensors, said June 10 through a spokesman. He confirmed that Lockheed supported the U.S. Navy’s presentation.

Acquisition of Aegis BMD would provide the Saudis with a considerable anti-missile capability, possibly in excess of any other gulf-region country, including Israel.

“The DDG 51 is the most capable destroyer on the planet,” said one naval expert. “If the Saudis get anything like that, it would be quite significant.”

A seagoing BMD capability would minimize terrorist threats to the system, said one senior retired naval officer.

“It’s much more difficult to defeat it – a truck bomb doesn’t matter,” the retired naval officer said. Moreover, “you can move a ship to a particular threat axis. It’s much harder for the other guy to plan against.”

But Iran, the primary threat in the region, already operates three Russian-built Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines and is acquiring more small subs, all able to threaten ships at sea. But identification of the target may prove difficult, particularly if an Iranian sub was trying to target Saudi but not U. S. ships.

The addition of BMD-capable ships in the gulf would help the United States, which already maintains at least one such ship in the region.

“If the Saudis always have one in the gulf, it makes it easier for the U.S. Navy to meet its commitments in the region,” the retired senior naval officer said.

Several other countries already operate the Aegis system or are building it into new warships, and Japan’s four Aegis destroyers are BMD-certified. But the transfer of such high-level technology comes with risks – which could become a concern in Congress, particularly after this year’s “Arab Spring” featured anti-government uprisings in several countries.

“If you think the kingdom isn’t long for this world, a fundamentalist takeover could put a system in the hands of the enemy,” the retired senior naval officer observed.

He harkened back to the late 1970s when prerevolutionary Iran, led by the shah, was a U.S. ally. Several highly capable destroyers were under construction for Iran when the shah fell.

Those ultimately were not delivered, but earlier, the U.S. had certified Iran as the only ally to receive F-14 Tomcat fighters equipped with the Phoenix air-to-air missile, then a state-of-the-art capability. Those aircraft and missiles all fell into the hands of the anti-U.S. Iranian government.

DefenseNews

Turkey’s Islamists Win 3rd Straight Term in Govt.

Turkey’s Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a landslide victory in nationwide parliamentary elections June 12, according to results released June 13, securing a third consecutive term in government since 2002.

Led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the AKP garnered nearly 50 percent of the general vote, while the main opposition party, the center-left Republican People’s Party (CHP), got about 26 percent. The AKP and the CHP won 426 and 135 deputies, respectively, in the 550-seat parliament.

Two smaller groups, the Nationalist Movement Party and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, became the only other parties to be represented in parliament, with much smaller numbers of seats.

AKP leader Erdogan will create the next single-party government before the end of this month.

Under the AKP’s rule, Turkey over the past nine years became an economic powerhouse of the Islamic world, affected only minimally by the global financial crisis in 2008. From a buyer of defense equipment, it turned into a manufacturer of most of its defense needs itself.

But many Western observers suggest that Turkey in the meantime turned its back on NATO and other institutions of the Western world, including moves to bolster ties with Islamic countries in the Middle East and a major deterioration of relations with Israel, its former ally.

DefenseNews