In 1972, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger visited Tehran and promised the Shah “a blank check” for military arms. Iran soon became the only country besides the United States to fly the F-14, which was, at the time, the top U.S. fighter jet.
Within just a couple years, however, Iran was in the throes of revolution and Islamist dictatorship. Whereas once Iranian officials chatted with their American counterparts at embassy functions and even state dinners, now Iranian officials held American diplomats hostage and sponsored terrorism abroad. Iran may have become an implacable foe of the United States but, for the first few years of the Islamic Republic’s existence, it nevertheless had America’s top aircraft technology at its disposal.
Fast-forward to the present day. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the U.S. military’s next-generation platform. For diplomatic reasons more than necessity, the manufacture of many of its parts was outsourced to NATO members. On the plus side, this became a jobs program for many NATO members and encouraged them to place orders that, in theory, lessened the price for manufacture. On the negative side, however, there is the sharing of the technology.
Historically, that would not have been a problem with NATO members, all of whom from a defense perspective at least read from the same page. Today, however, there is the problem of Turkey, which participated in the construction of some less sensitive parts and seeks to buy the entire platform. It has just announced that it will take delivery of the first batch of F-35As in 2018 with another order to follow.
The United States should cancel Turkey’s order, even if that means a financial loss for the planes’ manufacturers. Turkey is in a crisis, which threatens its fundamental orientation. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has purged 41 NATO officers out of the 50 which Turkey had assigned to the defense alliance before the coup. In recent months, Erdoğan has also tilting increasingly toward Russia. Rumors abound in Turkish military and diplomatic circles that on the agenda in Erdoğan’s most recent talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin was a more permanent military relationship, including perhaps a leased Russian presence in Mersin. At the very least, Turkey’s recent dealings with China, Russia, and Iran, as well as the more fundamental tilt in its foreign policy away from the West and toward a more rejectionist and Islamist camp, are cause for concern. So, too, is Turkey’s emphasis on its own indigenous arms industry, its ability to reverse engineer weapons systems, and its willingness to leak intelligence out of spite.
Providing F-35s to Turkey has greater strategic consequence than allowing the Islamic Republic of Iran to purchase Boeings, and will have potentially far longer repercussions. It should have been stopped six years ago, but Congress did not act. It’s time for Congress to rectify that mistake, step up and throw a wrench in the provision of any F-35s to Turkey. To go ahead with delivery would risk the technology leaking to China, Russia, and Iran and, perhaps, being used against Americans.
Original post: commentarymagazine.com
Turkey to Order New F-35 Lightning II Jets
Original post: defensenews.com