‘Insanity’ during guard duty: 3 soldiers dead

soldier who became “insane” killed three soldiers with his infantry rifle late on Thursday in Turkey’s eastern province of Ağrı, according to a statement by the Ağrı governorship.

According to the statement from Ağrı governorship, three soldiers were killed in Agrı’s Doğubeyazıt town.

An investigation is under way, the statement said.

Gendarmerie officer arrested in MİT truck case

On Thursday, Turkish Gendarmerie officer, who tipped off the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks for allegedly carrying ammunition inside Syria, has been arrested.

According to the statement by the public prosecutor of Adana, the noncommissioned officer identified only by the initials H.A. faces charges of “obtaining and revealing information that was supposed to be kept secret for the safety of the state.”

The trucks were stopped by gendarmerie teams in Turkey’s southeastern province of Hatay on January 1, 2014 despite a national security law forbidding such acts.

The Turkish Interior Ministry had said the trucks were carrying humanitarian aid for the Turkmen community in Syria.

The prosecutor and security officers who ordered the stopping of the trucks were later removed from their posts.

Daily Sabah

Turkish and French companies in joint missile development

Turkey is pressing ahead with talks with U.S. and European firms over its first long-range missile defence system, as the preferred Chinese bidder has yet to meet all requirements for the multi-billion dollar project, two officials said on Thursday.

NATO member Turkey chose China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp in 2013 as the preferred candidate for the $3.4 billion deal, prompting U.S. and Western concern about security and the compatibility of the weaponry with NATO systems.

Turkey’s defence minister said last week it did not plan to integrate the system with NATO infrastructure, only for the presidential spokesman to say days later that the systems would be integrated.

One of the defence officials told Reuters on Thursday there were still question marks over the Chinese proposal, particularly around “technology transfer” to boost the Turkish defence industry.

“Contacts on this issue are continuing. Securing technology transfer is one of the most important subjects in the tender and on this subject a full guarantee has not been provided,” the official said.

U.S. and NATO representatives were unhappy with Turkey’s choice of China Precision Machinery, which has been under U.S. sanctions for selling items to Iran, Syria or North Korea that are banned under U.S. laws to curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

FRENCH CONNECTION

Turkish defense contractor Aselsan and French defense contractor Thales on Thursday agreed to install Thales-made Lightweight Multi-role Missiles on Turkish Aselsan’s launch-pad, the companies said in a joint statement released on Thursday.

Aselsan is known for its products in military communications and weapons systems. Thales is one of largest defense electronics contractors in the world with its revenue exceeding $16 billion in 2014.

The two companies have been working together since 2010, and have completed a long period of trials for the missiles and the launcher.

The agreement opens the way for more cooperation between the two companies, the statement said.

In addition to bids from the U.S. firm Raytheon Co and the Franco-Italian group Eurosam, the officials told Reuters that Russia, eliminated in the first stage of the tender, was still keen on providing a surface-to-air missile system – a prospect that could also raise concerns in NATO.

Eurosam, which is owned by the multinational European missile maker MBDA and France’s Thales, came second in the tender. U.S.-listed Raytheon Co also put in an offer with its Patriot missile defence system, which is now operated by 13 countries around the world.

One of the officials said defence representatives had gone to Italy at the end of January for talks with Eurosam.

“In March, a delegation will go to the United States for talks with the other bidder. Finally, a delegation will go to China and hold talks there,” he said.

The sources said Russia had renewed its interest in the project. Officials previously said Russia had revised an initial bid and offered to sell Turkey its S-400 medium- to long-range anti-aircraft missile system.

However Turkey is not currently holding talks with the Russians.

WorldBulletin

Turkish civilian firearm sales up 640%

Annual firearm sales to civilians in Turkey have increased by 639% since 1997, a report by Turkey’s Association for Defence Industry Manufacturers (SASAD) revealed. These figures cover only licensed, registered firearms, a statement underlined.

There are currently an estimated 28 million firearms in the hands of civilians in Turkey, of which only a little over 9 million are registered with the state.

This means that there are 35 firearms (12 registered) available for every 100 Turks.

The increase in sales over the last decade is mostly attributed to relaxed regulations that allow for easier access to weapons and larger availability of both domestically manufactured and foreign firearms. Turkish firearms sales by category for the year of 2013 were as follows: handguns 54%, rifles 27%, shotguns 15%, accessories & other 4%.

Cities with top sales in 2013 were Istanbul, Adana, Ankara, Trabzon, Bursa, Izmir, Diyarbakir, Samsun, Kocaeli and Gaziantep.

 

Turkish Vipers Hunt in German Skies

Turkish Air Force has sent five F-16s to attend NATO’s JAWTEX-2014 (Joint Air Warfare Tactical Exercise-2014) drills that take place in northern Germany. Exercises include participants from Austria, France, Finland, The Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, Switzerland, Norway, Slovenia, Greece and other NATO aerial elements. Over 4,500 soldiers are attending the event that will last until May 23rd.

An official statement by Bundeswehr indicated that a total of 100 aircraft, including helicopters, are participating in the exercise.

Why Turkey May Not Buy Chinese Missile Systems

Another deadline came and went at the end of April without a decision in Turkey’s drawn out effort to purchase a surface-to-air missile (SAM) with anti-missile capabilities. The Turkish Ministry of Defense announced its intention to purchase the Chinese HQ-9 system in September 2013. However, the bidding deadline has subsequently been extended three times, with the latest extension through the end of June allowing time to consider revised bids from Eurosam and the Raytheon/Lockheed Martin consortium.

The bid from the China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CPMIEC) appeared to meet all the criteria in Turkey’s tender. It came in $600 million under the asking price of $4 billion and the Chinese company offered co-production of the HQ-9, an important consideration for a Turkish government that aspires to develop its domestic defense industry. The HQ-9 system also reportedly tested well, exhibiting a capability to engage cruise missiles on a par with that of the Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Patriot system, and potentially a longer range for conventional air targets than the Patriot and Eurosam Aster 30 systems. Chinese media sources also reported that although the HQ-9 system has a shorter range than the Russian system, it has a faster response time (15 seconds) and it hit all nine of its targets in trials. Turkey felt confident that it could finalize the deal in six months (another deadline that passed in April) and was encouraged that the Chinese company offered the shortest timeline for delivery of the system. What went wrong?

The United States and other NATO countries expressed deep concern about the deal, raising questions about the security implications of CPMIEC system’s integration into NATO’s command and control network and the implications of Chinese technical knowledge about how U.S. and NATO air and missile defenses operate. U.S. and NATO leaders such as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian have pressured Turkish leaders to change their minds. U.S. lawmakers also wrote a provision into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) stating that no U.S. funds could be used to integrate Chinese missile defense systems into U.S. or NATO systems, a condition explicitly meant to encourage Turkey to backtrack from its decision to work with the Chinese.

Faced with higher than anticipated costs and under pressure from NATO and the United States, the Turkish government reopened bidding for the project several times. Successive extensions of the bidding deadline to January, then April, and now June 2014 have allowed time for U.S. and French-Italian companies to revise and resubmit their bids. Prospects for the HQ-9 dimmed further when Murad Bayar, undersecretary for the defense industry and the main proponent of the deal with China, was removed from his post within the Turkish Defense Ministry on March 27 and reassigned within the government.

If CPMIEC somehow perseveres and wins the contract, it would be a major success for the Chinese defense industry. This deal would mark China’s largest-ever military export sale and the first significant arms contract with a European country. Chinese arms exports have expanded significantly in recent years, with a 212 percent increase from 2009-2013 over 2004-2008. A completed deal could signal China’s ability to make significant inroads in the European and Middle Eastern arms sales markets.

Even if CPMIEC ultimately loses the deal, its success in the initial bidding highlights the progress China has made in missile and electronics capability. This was the first time that China demonstrated its ability to domestically develop and produce a long-range SAM and missile defense system with a quality comparable to that of the world leaders in defense technology. Airbus CEO Tom Enders expressed concern at China’s growing indigenous design and production capabilities, citing this near-deal and the development of advanced unmanned vehicles as evidence of China becoming “a serious competitor.”

Turkey appears unlikely to consummate the deal with CPMIEC, though it is unclear which Western company Turkey will ultimately choose. Raytheon/Lockheed Martin have offered to meet Turkey’s technology transfer requirement, but that would raise the price even further over Turkey’s $4 billion budget.

The drawn out process shows that China faces significant political and security barriers to entry into the European market from the United States and other NATO countries. This will be a significant obstacle for the Chinese defense industry going forward, especially in efforts to sell weapons to U.S. allies and close partners. On the other hand, CPMIEC’s success in winning the initial tender with an appealing combination of price, performance and technology transfer highlights the Chinese defense industry’s potential to compete with U.S. and European suppliers for third country markets where Western countries are less well placed to play the security card.

Denise Der

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

Turkey may scrap Chinese missile deal

Turkey, which had provisionally awarded the US$3.4 billion missile defence system contract to China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp, may begin seeking other offers. Photo: Reuters
Turkey, which had provisionally awarded the US$3.4 billion missile defence system contract to China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp, may begin seeking other offers. Photo: Reuters

Chinese military experts blast Ankara, saying the US$3.4 billion defence contract was dropped due to pressure from US and NATO.

A Chinese firm has not met all the conditions set in a tender to build a missile defence system for Turkey, officials in Ankara said on condition of anonymity.

Turkey, which had provisionally awarded the US$3.4 billion contract to a Chinese firm, may begin seeking other offers, the officials noted.

Chinese analysts said Turkey’s reasons for backing out of the deal for China’s FD-2000 missile defence system were “not convincing”. The analysts described Ankara’s move as “predictable” and the “result of pressure” from the US and NATO.

Feng Zhongping , director of European studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said the assertion about failing to meet tender conditions was “ridiculous.”

“As a member of the NATO alliance, Turkey should have the common sense to know its defence system doesn’t match [the] Chinese FD-2000 missile system,” said Feng. “I think [the] real reason behind Turkey’s decision to pull out of the deal … is the great pressure from its NATO allies, with Washington paying close attention to Chinese military technology.”

NATO voiced concern when Ankara said in September it had chosen China’s HQ-9, or FD-2000 air-defence system, from China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp over the Patriot system from the US firm Raytheon and rival systems from Russia’s Rosoboronexport and Italian-French consortium Eurosam.

At the time of the tender, officials said China offered the most competitive terms and allowed for co-production in Turkey.

Feng implied that the Russian system was also being pushed out of the tender as a result of geopolitics, in particular NATO’s position towards Russia in Ukraine. Russia’s Rosoboronexport revised its offer, but it remains higher than the others and unlikely to win approval.

Beijing-based military expert Xu Guanyu said it was possible Ankara would choose the US Patriot system by default, as both China and Russia had been effectively sidelined.

“Turkey was using China as a bargaining chip to force the US firm to compromise,” said Xu, noting that the resulting deal might see Raytheon lower its price and adjust its technology.

On April 30, Ankara extended the bidding for two months. Bids from Eurosam and Raytheon were due to expire on April 30, according to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News.

In March, Murad Bayar, a top Turkish defence official, was sacked. Bayar played a key role in negotiations to buy Turkey’s first long-range anti-missile system from the Chinese firm.

South China Morning Post

Turkey reveals plans for Space Command

Ankara, Turkey – Turkish Air Force, country’s top scientific and technological research organization, dubbed TUBITAK and a number of industry participants are collaborating for the development of an integrated command and control center exclusively for Turkey’s upcoming space projects, officials familiar with the program told TR Defence. The new center’s exact location has not yet been disclosed but Ankara, the nation’s capital, is on top of a very short list of candidates.

It will eventually host over 180 personnel around the clock, oversee all of Turkey’s orbital operations and will also act as a mission control center as part of Turkey’s ambitious satellite launcher project spearheaded by missile manufacturer Roketsan. It will operate in conjunction with an existing, smaller operations center.

“The center will be capable of tracking all space objects of Turkish origin, but only be managing government-sponsored satellites and missions,” a TUBITAK press correspondent said.

“We’re consulting with ESA, NASA, CNSA and other international industry partners to build an efficient space infrastructure and make our systems interoperable with theirs as part of Turkey’s wider space strategy,” official added.

Turkey currently operates a number of telecommunications and Earth observation satellites and is hoping to produce its next generation of satellites in Turkey with maximum local contribution.

A high-resolution spy satellite that stirred some heat with Israel last year over Israeli and Western worries that sensitive images might end up in the hands of Islamist terrorists, named Gokturk-1, is scheduled to be launched this year, followed up by an indigenously built SAR satellite planned for orbit in 2018.

Turkey hopes to begin sending its own satellites to space by 2023, its 100th anniversary as a modern republic.

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.