Congress could block sale of Super Cobra attack helicopters to Turkey

Special to

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Congress could hold up a plan to sell
three advanced combat helicopters to Turkey.

Congressional sources said House and Senate leaders have questioned a
proposal by President Barack Obama to export three AH-1W attack
helicopters to the Turkish military. They said Turkey’s Islamist government
has sought the new platforms as it decreased military and political
cooperation with Washington over the last year.

Turkey is looking to modernize its attack helicopter fleet with the purchase of three AH-1W Super Cobras from the U.S.

“We have to ask ourselves what’s in it for us,” a congressional source said.

In the House, two senior Democrats introduced a bill that would block the Super Cobra helicopter sale to Turkey. Reps. Shelley Berkely and Eliot Engel, who represent districts in Nevada and New York, respectively, said Turkey was using its military power to threaten its democratic neighbors, particularly Armenia, the Republic of Cyprus and Syria.

“We are deeply concerned by Turkey’s increased saber rattling, its threats against Israel, its outlook toward the European Union, its occupation of Cyprus and its unrelenting blockade of Armenia,” Berkley and Engel said in a statement on Nov. 4. “The U.S. should be busy raising these very serious concerns with Turkey, rather than selling arms to them.”

On Oct. 28, the administration told Congress that it would sell three
AH-1Z helicopters to Turkey for $111 million. Under the law, Congress has 15
days to block or modify the sale. The legislation to block the sale has
garnered three Republican cosponsors.

Congress has been dismayed by the increasing hostility of Turkish Prime
Minister Recep Erdogan toward Israel. Earlier this year, Erdogan suspended defense and
military relations and ordered Turkish Navy warships to the eastern

“Under these circumstances, we are asking ourselves whether any export
deal will give Turkey the increased capability to threaten our friends,” the
source said.

Turkey has sought the Super Cobras as part of an agreement to host a
U.S. missile defense radar, meant to detect launches from neighboring Iran.
Erdogan has insisted that data from the X-band AN/TPY-2 surveillance radar
could not be relayed to Israel, repeatedly threatened by Teheran.

On Oct. 27, Turkey called off a major incursion into Iraq in an effort
to destroy strongholds of the Kurdish Workers Party. Ankara has sought the
Super Cobras to replace four AH-1W helicopters shot down by PKK fighters.
Those helicopters were procured by Ankara more than a decade ago.

“There is a feeling in Washington that this request could be linked to
the radar agreement,” the source said.

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