Hersh Links Turkey to Benghazi, Syria and Sarin

A recent report by journalist Seymour Hersh claims to uncover new information about the U.S. and Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian civil war. Combined with Turkey’s shutdown of YouTube and Twitter over rumors of government corruption, Hersh’s allegations further condemn the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan for political and military manipulation. Yet the sins of Erdoğan’s administration seem to be an outgrowth of America’s own self-destructive foreign policy.

The Sarin Attack

On August 21, 2013, a lethal nerve agent was released on the Syrian town of Ghouta outside Damascus. The town was host to a faction of rebels fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad, one of many engaged in a brutal civil war stretching back to early 2011.

More than a thousand Syrians were killed after exposure to the deadly gas, what was later classified by the UK Defense Science Technology Laboratory as “kitchen” grade sarin. On September 10, President Obama publicly denounced the attack and Assad, whom he asserted was the man behind it. “We know the Assad regime was responsible,” he said on national television. “And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.”

President Obama had previously warned that, should the Syrian government engage in chemical warfare, they would be treading over a dangerous “red line,” provoking military intervention by the United States. One year before the sarin attack, almost to the day, Obama told reporter Chuck Todd, “We have been very clear to the Assad regime…that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”

The case seemed cut and dry: American intelligence confirmed that Assad was guilty of chemical warfare, putting him in violation of international law. But that case, according to Hersh, was made through a “deliberate manipulation of intelligence.” That a deadly gas had been used was unquestionable, but a biased narrative was “cherry picked” from the available evidence to cast the Assad regime as the perpetrator.

How was the evidence “picked?” Obama pointed to the fact that, prior to the attack, the U.S. had intercepted chatter about the Syrian army distributing gas masks and mobilizing its chemical weapons personnel. While the Syrian army had performed this exercise, it had done so in December 2012—eight months prior to the attack. Recovered munitions from the gas site matched 330mm caliber artillery rockets, which were linked to the Syrian government because such weapons “had not been previously documented or reported to be in possession of the insurgency.” Yet Theodore Postol, a professor of technology and national security at MIT, reviewed the photos of the rocket and concluded that it was an improvised munition, “something you could produce in a modestly capable machine shop” and did not match the smaller rocket used by the Syrian military. Most importantly, the Washington narrative ignored al-Nusra, the Islamist rebel group designated by the U.S. and the U.N. as a terrorist organization.

Al-Nusra’s stated goal is to establish sharia law in Syria. They have carried out multiple suicide attacks against secular rebel groups and have been linked to small-scale chemical weapons attacks during the war. Furthermore, al-Nusra was known to be operating in Eastern Ghouta in late May and to have acquired Ziyaad Tariq Ahmed, formerly of the Iraqi military, who had “a track record of making mustard gas in Iraq and…[was] implicated in making and using sarin.”

Direct evidence linking al-Nusra to the Ghouta chemical attack does not exist, but neither does direct evidence linking the attack to the Syrian government. Nevertheless, Obama pushed hard for American intervention in Syria, with the sarin attack the cornerstone of his argument. The parallels to America’s previous cornerstones of Middle Eastern war, weapons of mass destruction, cannot be overstated.

Turkey, the “Rat Line” and Benghazi

In Mid-April, the London Review of Books published “The Red Line and the Rat Line,” Seymour Hersh’s investigation into America’s covert operations in Syria.

According to Hersh, America has supplied Syria with weapons and materiel by channeling them through Libya and Turkey. This process was overseen in part by the American consulate in Libya, located in Benghazi.

In January, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report detailing the assault on the Benghazi consulate that occurred in September 2012. A highly classified annex to the report (distributed to only eight members of Congress) further details the agreement made between President Obama and Prime Minister Erdoğan to transport military supplies from Libya through Turkey and into the hands of Syrian rebels. This back channel, what is known as a “rat line,” was authorized in early 2012 but has yet to be publicly acknowledged by the Obama administration. The Director of National Intelligence also denies the existence of a Turkish rat line.

According to Hersh’s sources, the rat line was funded by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar and executed by the CIA in conjunction with the UK’s MI6. The CIA is required by law to inform Congress of such covert missions, but not when they involve foreign agencies. This collaboration between the CIA and MI6 was thus classified as a liaison operation, overseen by CIA Director David Petraeus prior to his resignation, and used Libyan front companies to ship packages to Turkey.

The reason for the attack on the Benghazi consulate remains a mystery, but according to a former intelligence official, “The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms. It had no real political role.”

The Benghazi attack was a tragedy, but it was also a political disaster—publicly and privately. The U.S. lost control of the rat line shortly afterwards, but even prior to the deaths of four U.S. personnel, weapons were being put into the hands of Syrian jihadists. Syria’s rebel groups are not a homogenous lot and many have been affiliated with al Qaeda. The rat line did not discriminate.

When America ended its CIA mission, it left Turkey with a lingering connection to Syria’s radical insurgents and the question of what to do next. No matter how the civil war ends, Turkey’s relationship with both the Syrian government and its rebel factions will come under scrutiny.

Protection was needed in the form of U.S. intervention and Turkish leaders sought a way to pull the U.S. back into the war.

On August 18, 2013, UN inspectors were near Damascus investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal. During their three-day investigation, it would have been an exceptionally inopportune moment for the Syrian government to deploy sarin gas in nearby Ghouta.

Indeed, the longer American analysts study the August 21 gas attack, the greater their sense that the Syrian government did not perpetrate it. “But the 500 pound gorilla was, how did it happen?” asks Hersh’s source. “The immediate suspect was the Turks, because they had all the pieces to make it happen.”

The assessment of the Defense Intelligence Agency is that the sarin was supplied by Turkey to elements in Ghouta with the intent of “push[ing] Obama over the red line.” Intercepted transmissions from Turkish operators in the aftermath of the attack are jubilant, and the success of their covert mission must have seemed well in hand. Obama’s implicit call to war in the coming month was proof of that.

But America didn’t go to war with Syria. Turkey would need to find another way in.

YouTube and the False Flag

On March 27, the Turkish Telecommunications Authority (TIB) blocked the video sharing site YouTube. This was in response to a posted video that purported to have confidential audio of a conversation among Turkey’s top authorities, including Intelligence Chief Hakan Fidan, Deputy Chief of Military Staff Yasar Guler, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Prime Minister Erdoğan.

As of this writing, Reuters has not verified its authenticity, but both Davutoglu and Erdoğan have admitted it is genuine. But whereas Davutoglu has said the tape has been edited, Erdoğan has only railed against the “villainous” leaking of a national security meeting.

The subject of the meeting, as translated by the International Business Times, was possible intervention in Syria’s civil war. To justify intervention, Fidan suggests sending men from Syria to attack Turkey.

Hakan Fidan “I’ll send 4 men from Syria, if that’s what it takes. I’ll make up a cause of war by ordering a missile attack on Turkey; we can also prepare an attack on Suleiman Shah Tomb if necessary.”

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: “That’s what I told back there. For one thing, the situation is different. An operation on ISIL has solid ground on international law. We’re going to portray this is Al-Qaeda, there’s no distress there if it’s a matter regarding Al-Qaeda. And if it comes to defending Suleiman Shah Tomb, that’s a matter of protecting our land.”

Yaşar Güler: “We don’t have any problems with that.”

Hakan Fidan: “Second after it happens, it’ll cause a great internal commotion (several bombing events is bound to happen within). The border is not under control…”

What Fidan proposes is known as a “false flag” attack, a mission wherein the enemy is actually disguised members of one’s own country sent in to incite a panic. Suleiman Shah is the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire; though his tomb is located near Aleppo, Syria, it is guarded by the Turkish military. Islamist rebels in Syria have threatened to destroy it in the past and Erdoğan has publicly threatened retaliation if they do.

But if ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) don’t, the voice allegedly belonging to Fidan knows what to do: “I get them to fire eight missiles into empty land [in the vicinity of the tomb]. That’s not a problem. Justification can be created.”

Erdoğan has accused YouTube of giving saboteurs a platform for dissent and banned access to the website nationwide. The ban was temporarily lifted on April 5 but the ruling was reversed by the GölbaşıCriminal Court of First Instance. Two days later, Google filed a protest with Turkish courts.

The Horror

Understandably, Turkey and the U.S. have denied Hersh’s allegations. Both countries point out that Hersh has but one unnamed intelligence source supplying most of his information and reaffirm that each is the other’s ally. Hersh’s unnamed intelligence source could have predicted that:

“We could go public if it was somebody other than Erdoğan, but Turkey is a special case. They’re a Nato ally. The Turks don’t trust the West. They can’t live with us if we take any active role against Turkish interests. If we went public with what we know about Erdoğan’s role with the gas, it’d be disastrous.”

The countries have said that this conspiracy of Hersh’s is too horrific to be believed. I’m sure Mr. Hersh is used to it. He’s been hearing that since 1969.

Foreign Policy Journal

Terrorists fire on military helicopter

Diyarbakir, Turkey – A Turkish army UH-60 transport helicopter came under terrorist fire on Tuesday in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, security officials said.

Two shots hit the helicopter, which was carrying national high school entrance exam papers, in the Lice district.

Officials said no one was hurt and the helicopter landed safely at a local gendarmerie command. Damage on the helicopter is said to be “only cosmetic”.

Security officers say they have launched an operation to capture the terrorists.


Syrian missiles ‘locked-on to Turkish jets’

Syria’s missile systems ‘harassed’ Turkish fighter jets on Monday, the Turkish General Staff has announced in a statement.

The missiles deployed in Syria locked on to Turkish F-16 fighter jets as they were carrying out a routine combat air patrol along the Turkey-Syria border, according to the statement published on the General Staff’s website.

Tensions in the area have remained high since Turkish forces shot down a Syrian warplane for entering its airspace on March 23.

The two countries’ borders extend more than 800km.


Turkey shoots down Syrian Mig

A pair of Turkish Air Force F-16s intercepted and shot down one of two Syrian Mig-23 type fighter aircraft after the aircraft violated Turkish Airspace, TR Defence sources confirmed on Sunday.

“Our F-16s went up in the air and shot that plane down. Why? Because if you violate my airspace, then from now on, our slap will be hard,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told supporters at a campaign rally in Istanbul.

Syria’s state-controlled news agency SANA reported that the pilot successfully ejected and was quickly rescued.

The two Syrian Mig 23s flying north were spotted by Turkish radar and warned four times before entering Turkish airspace. One of them turned around but the other continued into Turkish airspace.  One of the Turkish F-16s engaged the Syrian Mig just inside the Turkish border with an AMRAAM radar-guided missile. The Syrian aircraft was hit and finally crashed about 1000 yards south of the Turkish-Syrian border.

Erdogan on Sunday congratulated the military for downing a Syrian warplane near its border and warned of a “heavy” response if its airspace was violated.

“I congratulate the chief of general staff, the armed forces and those honourable pilots… I congratulate our air forces,” said the premier.

Turkey toughened its rules of engagement toward Syria after Syria’s shooting down an unarmed Turkish F-4 Phantom over the Mediterranean Sea.  Turkish Air Force shut down a Syrian military transport helicopter last year, also for violating Turkish airspace.


Pakistan denies plans to arm Syrian rebels

syrian-rebelPakistan on Thursday strongly denied it had any plans to send weapons to Syrian rebels, following reports that Saudi Arabia was holding talks with it about arming the opposition.

Pakistani foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasneem Aslam said at a regular briefing that Islamabad did not supply arms to “entities”, meaning rebel groups, and respected Syria’s sovereignty.

“The policy guidelines for the sale of arms that we have are in line with the adherence to the purposes and principles of the UN charter,” she said.

Pakistan recognized the right of all states to protect their security, she said, and wanted an end to the bloodshed in Syria.

She stressed that “regime change from outside by any means is something that Pakistan has persistently and very strongly opposed”.

“We also have what is known as end users’ certificate which ensures that our weapons are not resold or provided to a third country,” she said.

“Our position on Syria has been very clear and has been articulated again and again.”

A Saudi source said Sunday that Riyadh was seeking Pakistani anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets for forces fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

Rebels have long sought anti-aircraft rockets to defend themselves against Syrian warplanes, which regularly bomb rebel-held areas with barrels loaded with TNT and other ordnance.

The United States has opposed arming the rebels with such weapons, fearing they might end up in the hands of extremists.

But Syrian opposition figures say the failure of peace talks in Geneva seems to have led Washington to soften its opposition.

The nearly three-year conflict in Syria has torn the country apart, killing more than 140,000 people including some 50,000 civilians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Aslam said Pakistan had taken note of the humanitarian situation in Syria and wanted to see the Syrian people getting the supplies they needed.

Russia, a key ally of Syria, on Tuesday warned Saudi Arabia against supplying the rebels with shoulder-launched rocket launchers, saying it would endanger security across the Middle East.

On Wednesday, Syria shipped out a consignment of mustard gas for destruction at sea under a disarmament deal approved by the UN Security Council to dispose of its chemical weapons.


Did Israel Use a Turkish Military Base in Latakia Attack?

This story keeps getting weirder and more interesting: RT (formerly Russia Today) reports based on a “reliable source” that Turkey allowed Israeli air-force jet bombers to use one of its military bases to attack the Syria port of Latakia, where the government had stored Russian-made Yakhonts anti-ship missiles.  Israel believed the armaments were destined for Hezbollah, which would use them in the next war in Lebanon to neutralize Israel’s naval forces.  For a discussion of the weapons system and the role it might play in such a battle, read this report.

Given that this story keeps getting curiouser and curiouser, I believe the story is very possibly true.  So now we have to ask ourselves a number of questions:

Why would a Turkish government nursing a deep grudge against Israel for killing 9 of its citizens in the Mavi Marmara massacre, all of a sudden turn around and lend an air base for an attack on a third country?  Further, why would Turkey cooperate with Israel in attacking Syrian missiles destined for Hezbollah?  Turkey has no quarrel with the Lebanese militant group.

There are several answers.  Turkey is opposed to the Assad government and anything that will weaken it may cause Turkey to relax its former animosity toward Israel.  Also, Hezbollah has escalated its involvement in the Syrian conflict by sending thousands of its fighters to capture Qusayr.  This would be a way for Turkey to make the Islamist group pay a steep price for its intervention.  It would be yet another way for both Israel and Turkey to say to Assad that he faces a looming alliance among former enemies who are now united (at least covertly) in their opposition to his rule.

Second, if Israel wanted to attack Syria without violating its airspace it could just as easily have flown north from Israel to a point west of Latakia and attacked from the Mediterranean.  Why did the Israeli air force feel it needed to attack from Turkey?  The answer may lie in the fact that attacking from Turkey would allow Israel to attack from the north rather than the west.  Syria would not have expected an attack on Latakia from the north and therefore might not have defended against it.  This would give the Israeli attackers an element of surprise.

If this account is true, it proves that Middle East relations are based far more on shared interests than on principles.  In other words, pragmatism and even cynicism is the rule of the day.  Turkey, which trumpets its dedication to the Palestinian cause and its implacable opposition to Israel’s Occupation, can do the unthinkable and allow Israeli military forces to use its sovereign territory to attack an enemy.  So much for the notion of Muslim solidarity.  And so much for the Islamist criticism of Muslim states (Saudi Arabia, etc.) that allow non-Muslim military forces (U.S., etc.) to attack fellow Muslim states, thereby betraying Islam.

For Erdogan, the opportunity to bloody Assad’s nose trumped all those considerations.  The other problem with Turkey’s decision is that it will give Israel the impression that since Turkey granted access to its military bases, it will also fold regarding its support of the Palestinians.

Alternately, we may see that Israel retracts its opposition to paying $1-million to each of the families of the victims of the Mavi Marmara attack.  Israeli capitulation on that score may signal a quid pro quo for Turkey’s help in attacking Latakia.

One way to gauge this is by whether Erdogan follows through on his commitment to visit Gaza.  He was supposed to come last month.  But the turmoil in both Egypt and Turkey caused a delay.  If he does visit Gaza Israel should know this alliance is extremely tactical and targeted at a very narrow range of issues.  If he doesn’t, then we’ll know that Israel has succeeded in co-opting yet another opponent of Occupation.

Finally, it’s interesting that the source for this report is a Russian media outlet.  Remember that Russia’s missiles were targeted and destroyed in Israel’s attack.  Vladimir Putin has not responded in any way to this.  Alex Fishman, in yesterday’s Yediot, took his silence as a confirmation that Putin is at heart nothing but a cynical weapons merchant who doesn’t care what happens to his weapons as long as he’s paid for them.  As with so much of what he wrote in that article, I think it’s a crock.

Israel’s attack is an affront not only to Hezbollah and Assad, but to Russia as well.  Putin is not the disinterested arms dealer Fishman makes him out to be.  There will be an accounting for this act of aggression by Israel.  The only question is where and when and under what circumstances.  If RT’s reporter learned her information from a Russian intelligence source, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

I am trying through DC and Turkey-based journalists with U.S. or Turkish military-intelligence sources to confirm this story.

Richard Silverstein

Raytheon’s Mike Boots Explains Turkey’s Patriot Balance

A Dutch soldier standing by a Patriot anti-missile battery at the Diyarbakir military airport in southeastern Turkey. (AFP)
A Dutch soldier standing by a Patriot anti-missile battery at the Diyarbakir military airport in southeastern Turkey. (AFP)

TR Defence’s North America correspondent and acting editor-in-chief Hasan Karaahmet has interviewed Mr. Mike Boots, Patriot Turkey Program Manager at Raytheon Defense Systems, to shed light on some of the most common questions Turkish defense enthusiasts ask regarding Turkey’s T-LORAMIDS long-range air defence program.

Hasan Karaahmet: Mr. Boots, thank you for agreeing to talk to our readers. As a time-tested, battle-proven system, many countries around the world depend on the Patriot, both NATO and non-NATO. What is the driving force behind Patriot’s huge commercial success to this day?

Mike Boots: No other existing system has the proven combat experience of Patriot to engage evolving threats; and no other air and missile defense system has demonstrated the reliability and lower cost of system ownership. Patriot is the backbone of NATO’s lower tier defense, and as you know, Patriot is currently deployed in Turkey by NATO members Germany, the Netherlands and the United States.

Hasan Karaahmet: What is the current level of deployment around the world?

Mike Boots: There are currently over 200 Patriot fire units deployed around the world with Raytheon’s 12 Patriot partners. More than 40 Patriot fire units are now in construction or are undergoing modernization.

Hasan Karaahmet: How about the US? How long does the US military itself plan on using the Patriot air defence system?

Mike Boots: The US Army has committed to fielding Patriot beyond the year 2048.

Hasan Karaahmet: What’s Raytheon’s policy on investments in Turkey?

Mike Boots: Raytheon has a long history working in Turkey — from ground based air defence systems like Stinger and Hawk to tactical radars like Firefinder and Sentinel. From our family of air-to-air missiles like AMRAAM and AIM-9 to naval command management systems like Genesis. Raytheon is committed to partnerships with Turkish industry.

Hasan Karaahmet: Any cooperation prospects in regards to Patriot?

Mike Boots: We are already working closely with several Turkish defence companies to produce Patriot components for export to other countries. For example, Aselsan is a key strategic partner for Raytheon on the Antenna Mast Group for the UAE Patriot system. Roketsan is also a key strategic partner, producing components of GEM-T missile for the UAE and Kuwait. Also, Pagatel is producing command and control shelters, and AYESAS is working on the command and control integration.

Hasan Karaahmet: Turkey’s Undersecreteriat for Defence Industries, the SSM, has adopted a procurement policy favoring local production and technology sharing. What are Raytheon’s views on this?

Mike Boots: Both Roketsan and Aselsan have been awardedRaytheon’s prestigious Supplier Excellence awards for the past two years for the excellent work they have performed on these programs. We anticipate increased global Patriot work share for Roketsan and Aselsan and have recently signed long-ter, agreements with these great companies for collaboration on advanced technology co-development projects in the area of high altitude missile defense. In addition to these strategic partner companies I mentioned, many other Turkish defence companies have the experience and skills we look for in our suppliers. As we win in other countries, they will get the opportunity to compete for additional work for those programs.

Hasan Karaahmet: Can the Patriot system be operated in conjunction with an Aselsan radar or launch a Turkish-made missile with comparable capabilities?

Mike Boots: Patriot can use data and information from a wide variety of sources and can interface with a variety of equipment, including missiles. We would need to know the specific sensors or effectors we are talking about in order to adequately answer that question.

Hasan Karaahmet: Does the US government or certain laws restrict the transfer of know-how on any subsystem or component of Patriot to Turkey?

Mike Boots: No! Turkey is a valuable ally of the United States and a NATO partner. Turkey’s T-LORAMIDS program fulfills an important NATO air and missile defence commitment.

Hasan Karaahmet: Certain reports appeared in the Turkish defence media indicate that the Patriot procurement has been tied to Turkey’s being granted access to F-35 source codes and the SM-2/Aegis technology for TF-2000 class frigates. What can you tell me about this?

Mike Boots: Intellectual property (IP) rights, such as software source codes, are often an issue to be negotiated in any sale of new technology. A customer’s desire for IP rights must be balanced with the rights of the inventor and owner of those rights through the negotiation process.

Hasan Karaahmet: Mr. Boots, how does Patriot compare to the other Western contender in T-LORAMIDS, Eurosam’s SAMP/T? What makes Patriot the better of the two?

Mike Boots: As I mentioned at the beginning of the interview, no other existing system has the proven combat experience of Patriot to engage evolving threats. No other air and missile defence system has demonstrated the reliability and lower cost of system ownership. Patriot is NATO’s lower tier defense with 200 Patriot fire units deployed around the world.

Hasan Karaahmet: In the past, we’ve published statements from mainly US sources that if Turkey opts for a non-Western solution, integration of the SAM system into NATO networks can be problematic. Can you explain to our viewers as to why this is the case?

Mike Boots: We have read and heard similar statements from various sources. NATO is very serious about protecting critical technology from falling into the hands of potential enemies. Patriot is a key element of NATO air and missile defence capability and works seamlessly with the NATO command and control architecture and other NATO defence systems. NATO would be very careful about what other systems might be connected to the architecture.

Hasan Karaahmet: What’s the future for Patriot? Is it going to continue to evolve with new capabilities beyond the GEM=T and PAC-3?

Mike Boots: The Patriot modernization roadmap will ensure Patriot remains the most advanced air and missile defence system in the world. If Turkey chooses Patriot for their long-range air and missile defense system, Turkish industry will have opportunities to participate in co-developing new technologies to help keep Patriot on the leading edge of technology.


Turkey, US cooperate on aid to Syrian rebels

Turkey and the United States have intensified political and military dialogue for strategic planning to smoothly deliver U.S. weapons to the Free Syria Army (FSA), following Washington’s decision to supply military assistance to the Syrian rebels in their fight against the Bashar al-Assad’s army, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.

On the political level, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Secretary of State John Kerry exchanged two phone calls, one on Saturday and the other late Wednesday, to discuss recent developments in Syria on the eve of a crucial core group meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People on Saturday in Doha. Kerry and Davutoğlu are also expected to hold a tête-à-tête meeting in Doha, in their first encounter since relations between the two allies were strained over the Gezi Park protests.

On the military-intelligence level, technical experts from the two countries are in intense talks to explore the best ways for the delivery of American weaponry to the FSA. Some representatives of the rebels have also been present in these meetings.

One of the most likely potential routes for the transportation of this weaponry into Syria is through Turkey, which has a long border with its southern neighbor, diplomatic sources said. Syria’s northern parts are under the FSA’s control and Turkey has stood as the best logistical center for the Syrian opposition since the turmoil broke in the country in 2011.
The Kerry-Davutoğlu phone conversation late Wednesday mainly addressed developments in Syria, following Washington’s policy change regarding arms supplies to the FSA.

No-fly zone on the agenda of Doha

“After this change of policy, they sure want to be in close coordination with us,” a Turkish Foreign Ministry official told the HDN. “The change in the U.S. position has impacts on the ground and at the political level. Just after Washington declared this change in their policy, 73 senior Syrian army officials -including some four-star generals – defected to Turkey,” the official said.
Davutoğlu is now expected to hold bilateral meetings with some of his counterparts in Doha, including with John Kerry.

The Doha meeting of 11 foreign ministers of the core group of the Friends of the Syrian People follows recent Syrian regime successes, which intensified its attacks to re-take control of the northern town of Aleppo, the country’s economic capital. The conference follows a high-level meeting in Ankara last week between the Friends of Syria, during which FSA commander Salim İdriss discussed the provision of military aid, including heavy weapons, according to Reuters.

“We will discuss everything, including the implementation of a no-fly zone over Syria,” Foreign Minister Davutoğlu said in an interview with private broadcaster TGRT late on Wednesday. The use of chemical weapons, which has been proven by the Turkish and U.S. governments, will also be discussed, while participant countries will explore how to swiftly provide aid to the opposition groups.

Aleppo is key for the FSA and Turkey

The regime’s success on the ground is seen as an warning among the international community. Regime forces’ retaking of critical passage point Qusayir, and particularly its marching toward Aleppo, were important developments on the ground that could give hope to al-Assad that he is winning the fight.
“The message we convey to the core group countries is that it’s time to give more support to the opposition. Al-Assad should not be brought to the point where he is winning the victory militarily. Because in this case, he would never approach us for a political solution,” the Turkish official stressed. Al-Assad’s achievements on the ground would make prospects for the 2nd Geneva meeting almost meaningless, Ankara believes.

Keeping the control of Aleppo is very significant not only for the FSA, but also for Turkey, which is concerned about a massive refugee influx from this town of 3 million people. An increase in the number of refugees fleeing Aleppo has recently been observed, as the total number of Syrians seeking asylum in Turkey has reached 205,000.


Turkey Looks Into Fifth-Gen Complement To JSF

Turkey’s aviation industry has come a long way since it began building F-16 Fighting Falcons in the 1980s. Now it is confident that it can produce an aircraft in-country that will not only replace the F-16 but complement the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in years to come. 

Turkish Aviation Industries (TAI) has been working quietly on ideas for a fifth-generation fighter, dubbed the F-X, for several years, but 2013 represents a critical year in the decision-making process for the project. A $20 million two-year concept phase, started in August 2011, will end this September, and a meeting of Turkey’s Defense Industry Executive Committee, which takes place at year-end, will define how the program will begin to take shape.

At the IDEF defense show in Istanbul last month, TAI displayed three potential single-seat design concepts for the aircraft: two conventional monoplane layouts, one with a single engine, not dissimilar to the F-35, and one with two engines, while the third featured canard foreplanes and a large delta wing. Each of the concepts features elements of design associated with fifth-generation fighter aircraft, such as faceted fuselages to reduce radar cross-section, internal weapons bays, super-cruise capability as well as advanced avionics and an active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system. Engineers have received input from Saab, which was drafted to consult on the program.

TAI officials suggest that the two single-engine concepts will have maximum takeoff weights (MTOW) of 50,000-60,000 lb., while the twin-engine version will have an MTOW of 60,000-70,000 lb. Diagrammatic drawings of the twin-engine aircraft show two weapons bays, one located between the air intakes that can house a pair of small short-range air-to-air missiles, and the other in front of the engines housing four larger missiles around the size of the AIM-120 Amraam.

According to industry officials, the requirements defined by the Turkish air force have changed at least three times, with the specification narrowing to what TAI and Turkish industry will be able to achieve in the coming years. Of the designs shown at IDEF, the twin-engine concept meets the requirements set by the air force, say industry officials, but the service prefers a single-engine aircraft to reduce cost and complexity. Although envisaged as a multirole fighter, TAI officials say the air force may give the resulting aircraft more of an air-to-air/air-dominance role as a primary mission.

Under the current timetable, Turkey will develop the aircraft at the same time as it is paying for the F-35.  TAI wants to achieve a first flight for the F-X within 10 years. While the F-35 is set to replace the F-4 Phantoms and early F-16s in the air force inventory, the service sees the F-X replacing later models of the F-16 fleet purchased through various iterations of the Peace Onyx program. The last F-16 produced by TAI was delivered to the air force in December as part of the Peace Onyx IV program.

Tony Osborne

TN to receive new-generation maritime patrol planes

Finmeccanica company Alenia Aermacchi is to supply eight new-generation ATR 72-600 maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft to the Turkish Navy under a contract amendment signed with Turkey’s Defence Industries Undersecratariat (SSM) at IDEF 2013 in Istanbul on 8 May.

The agreement – which is an amendment to a contract signed in 2005 for the supply of 10 ATR 72-500s – will see the delivery of two platforms configured as Turkish Maritime Utility Aircraft for personnel and cargo transport and six platforms configured as Turkish Maritime Patrol Aircraft (TMPAs) to fulfil Turkey’s maritime patrol requirements.

|The new -600 version of the ATR 72 replaces the now out of production ATR 72-500. Key features include a ‘glass’ cockpit and more powerful engines, which will provide better performance and long-term serviceability, according to the company.

Modification of the two ATR 72-600s is already well under way at Alenia’s plant in Naples-Capodichino, with delivery to the Turkish Navy set for June and July 2013.

Meanwhile, Turkish Aerospace Industry (TAI) has started conversion work on the first of the six ATR 72-600s at its Akinci facility following its delivery in April.