Rep. Shelley Berkley Opposes Arms Sale To Turkey

By Karoun Demirjian

Las Vegas Sun

Nov 9 2011

She’s done it before, with Saudi Arabia. This time, Rep. Shelley
Berkley doesn’t want another Israel-antagonist, Turkey, to be allowed
to buy U.S. military materiel.

Berkley is co-sponsoring a resolution to block the proposed sale
of $111 million of U.S. attack helicopters to the NATO ally,
and to require that the president consult Congress whenever the
administration is planning to sell more than $50 million in military
equipment to Turkey.

In the “Dear Colleague” letter she and Rep. Eliot Engel have been
circulating this week, Berkley lists several objections to Turkey’s
political positions, including its “belligerence against Cyprus”
that is “intensifying,” being “late to distance itself from the
nightmare in Syria,” “undermin[ing] international efforts to impose
strong sanctions on Iran,” and continued “refus[al] to apologize for
the Armenian genocide.”

But the key complaint Berkley has with Turkey is its increasingly
icy relationship with Israel.

Turkey’s humanitarian support for Palestinians in Gaza had already
begun to vex Israel before May 2010, when things exploded into a
full-fledged diplomatic crisis over an incident on the Turkish ship,
the Mavi Marmara, which was part of an anti-occupation movement’s
“Freedom Flotilla” to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Israeli
commandos boarded the approaching ships at sea, and in the skirmishes
that followed on board, killed nine Turkish nationals. Israel has
not apologized for the incident, claiming it was self-defense.

In the months since, Turkey recalled its ambassador to Israel, expelled
the Israeli ambassador to Turkey, and refused Israel’s offer of aid
after a devastating earthquake that hit Turkey’s eastern region around
Lake Van.

“This is the time for the United States to be raising our very
serious concerns about Turkey, rather than selling arms to them,”
Berkley and Engel wrote.

(One point of dispute with Berkley’s complaints: while Turkish Prime
Minister Tayyip Erdogan was late to support NATO action on Libya, his
harsh criticism of Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown against protesters in
Syria began only shortly after Hillary Clinton’s and before Barack
Obama joined the fray. Turkey is now harboring most of the Syrian
refugees, including military defectors who are helping coordinate
the uprisings. One thing noticeably missing from Berkley’s letter:
any mention of the Kurdish population of Turkey, currently being
subjected to the most humanitarian injustices at the hands of the
Turkish government.)

Berkley isn’t going so far, as she did with Saudi Arabia, as to claim
Turkey would use these weapons against Israel — just arguing that
Turkey should not be rewarded for its anti-Israel and anti-Cypriate

But if Berkley is this upset about the sale of three attack
helicopters, it’s only bound to get worse: Turkey has also requested
to purchase Predator and Reaper drones from the United States, and
according to reports, the Pentagon isn’t opposed to the idea.

Turkey has lobbied the U.S. to become a base for a fleet of Predator
drones, most of which are operated from the Creech Air Force Base in
Nevada, once the United States leaves Iraq at the end of the year.

Turkey wants to use the drones to fight the P.K.K., the Kurdish
separatist group that is fighting for its own country on Turkish

The United States and Turkey have collaborated on the P.K.K. in the
past, with the United States sharing drone footage from northern Iraq,
where there is a strong Kurdish population and from where, Turkey says,
most of the group’s attacks are coordinated.

In the past, the U.S. has cited Turkey’s strategic military position
as a reason not to antagonize the country over some of the political
positions Berkley complains of in her letter, including its occupation
of part of Cyprus and its disavowal of the Armenian genocide.