Does Turkey really want the F-35 fighter jets? - NEDRET ERSANEL

Does Turkey really want the F-35 fighter jets?

Pentagon spoke its mind to Turkey on June 7 regarding the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system, and threatened Ankara using the F-35 Lockheed Martin fighter jets.

They were all grave threats, only increasing the strain on U.S.- Turkey relations.

The Turkish Defense Ministry responded to the U.S. Department of Defense’s outburst in a distinctly soft manner. Though it was surprising, everybody sensed there was an explanation to this strangeness.

“U.S. deputy secretary of defense sent Turkey’s National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar a letter. The letter, which covers the defense and security matters between the two countries, states the significance of continuing meetings and finding a solution to the existing problems within the frame of strategic partnership, and in a manner that will maintain the extensive security cooperation.”

To put “calm” in a way that the U.S. will understand, this is a “cool” answer. As a matter of fact, “it is what they wrote themselves.”

Is there any sign in this statement indicating that the S-400 purchase will be suspended? Or any sign of determination concerning the continuation of the F-35 project?

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Fresh news came from Pentagon Monday night: “Turkish pilots’ F-35 training flights have been stopped, their training has ended.”

This is the first step.

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Let us discuss the “obvious,” the Ankara can explain the “ambiguous.”

“ The F-35 fighter jets are not as strategic as the S-400s. Their performance in aerial operations is 60 percent, their rate of meeting the performance expected of them for all tasks is 27 percent. Also, they are under U.S. control and can easily be manipulated. Furthermore, these aircraft are very expensive. Their maintenance and operation are quite difficult. Their useful load, bomb-missile carry capacity is inadequate. We met with the air forces personnel as well. I also think they are bulky aircraft. F-35 will not add anything to Turkey, but it is extremely important for the U.S.” [“Hakurk ile Kandil bağı kesilecek” (Hakurk’s Qandil ties will be severed), June 10, Hürriyet.]

Former General Staff Chief of Intelligence and retired Lt. Gen. İsmail Hakkı Pekin’s “bolded” words require extra attention.

What could the air forces’ F-35 reports be saying? What could the General Staff’s F-35 suggestions mean?

Interpreting these developments alongside the Defense Ministry’s flexible but firm statement leads to the question: Does Turkey really want these aircraft?

Or does it want to be unfettered of this “burden,” and is hence carrying out a policy to do this through the U.S.’s hand itself, so that the U.S. is the one leaving the table?

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It is not about a comparison between the S-400s and F-35 jets. It is not about a choice between the U.S., NATO and another country or “pole.” We wrote about this and discussed it a hundred times: “This is an introduction to independence.”

What the U.S. cannot believe, what surprised it is Turkey having the courage to do this. Second, the countries waiting for the “success of a bad example” were also revealed. We wrote about both India and Saudi Arabia. There is more to it.

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Cyprus and the East Mediterranean are on fire. Iraq, Iran and Syria are on fire – and they are going to continue to burn. Operation Claw launched by the Turkish Armed Forces in northern Iraq was aimed at stopping the U.S. that had turned to Iran, to make an introduction to the east of the Euphrates River in Syria, and to prevent the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) / People’s Protection Units (YPG) / Democratic Union Party (PYD) from returning to the region – and more is expected.

Iran’s Presidential Office: “In the meeting between the Iranian president and his Turkish counterpart, [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan criticized the U.S. sanctions against Iran and stated that they do not approve of this, and that Turkey will continue its cooperation with Iran. The two countries will be able to assume a great role concerning the region’s security by developing their cooperation.”

Countless analyses in the region’s press-media outlets are saying Turkey, Iran, Qatar, Pakistan and Iraq are getting too close.

Why?

CNN National Security Analyst Samantha Vinogard said: “There is a new clique of countries that have started to act together. They are joining their forces as we are getting lonelier. Saudi Arabia is buying weapons from China, Turkey and India are buying them from Russia. A new and courageous world is emerging.”

Hulusi Akar said: “If the U.S. walks away, we can build our own world.”

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The crisis in the Mediterranean and Cyprus is going to exacerbate.

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairsin his turn said, “The East Mediterranean is of strategic importance for us. It is a region in which the U.S. has a series of strategic interests and important partners. We have 10 battleships, 130 warcraft, and 9,000 troops in the region.”

We know who these partners are, but the official statement is: “We are working closely with our partners in the meeting our Secretary of State [Mike] Pompeo attended with Greece, Israel, and Southern Cyprus.”

Concerning energy, we are required to understand the assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs’ statement. The “big picture” is hanging over him anyway.

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However, the justice minister is simultaneously carrying out meetings in the U.S. and with his counterpart. We can guess what is being discussed.

Whether you believe it or not is up to you, but the U.S. special representative for Syria states that the two countries are very close to reaching an agreement in the buffer zone, and that European countries are not going to be included in the safe zone.

The U.S. is a country that likes gray areas. It lives in the shadow. We do not endorse it, but we are continuing our relations. Relations are not severed, though there is a strain. If relations are severed, they will be the ones to do it.

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If you look at the “Voice of America”, “The U.S. started the process to remove Turkey from the F-35 program.”

Therefore Ankara is free to explore its options.

The U.S. will want to make us pay.

Are we ready?

It seems so.

The S-400 crisis is now an F-35 crisis.

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