By Steve Brown
In a grim new stark reality reminiscent of “The Twilight’s Last Gleaming” the US military establishment now laments its own inability to forcibly corrupt the world – or in this case Turkey – to purchase its weaponry.
In a bizarre release, author Phil Stewart speculates that the impotence of US power to force Erdogan to purchase the expensive and highly over-rated Patriot missile system relates to the failed US-engineered coup attempt of three years ago.
Citing unknown and vague sources within the US military, author Stewart speculates that the failed US coup prompted the Turkish leadership to make its S-400 decision. Now prepare for the reason: That mysterious and ‘unnamed sources’ within the US Pentagon (known only to Stewart? …. or only to the CIA?) believe that Erdogan could shoot down Turkey’s own US-made warplanes more easily with Russian S-400’s than with the US-made Patriot in another coup attempt. Yes, you read that right!
Stewart thus quotes the ‘unnamed officials’ in the Pentagon: “There’s some talk that he wants the (Russian) system just to protect himself. He doesn’t want a NATO-integrated system.”
There is no doubt that the US-attempted coup in Turkey, and the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia in its embassy in Istanbul, has given second thoughts to Turkey about the value of its western alliance. Possessing S-400’s will leverage Turkey’s ability to diversify its own air force beyond NATO equipment, and shift its focus from west to east.
And the idea that Erdogan is only worried about the threat from Turkey’s own air force is beyond absurd, especially since the shake-up in the Turkish AF ranks since the attempted coup; also the clear threat from Israeli air strikes in Syria (where Turkish forces are present) while the US defends the YPG around Manbij and Deir Ezzor.
Trump said Turkey’s S-400 decision is all Obama’s fault and that, “I’ve had a good relationship with President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan,” which of course makes sense as they are similar personalities. Trump continued, “It’s a very tough situation that they’re in and it’s a very tough situation that we’ve been placed in…. With all of that being said, we’re working through it, we’ll see what happens.”
On July 18th however, the US announced its decision to bar Turkey from the F35 program. Trump said, “Because they have a system of missiles that’s made in Russia, they’re now prohibited from buying over 100 planes. I would say that Lockheed isn’t exactly happy. That’s a lot of jobs.”
The move limits Turkey’s warplanes to its ageing fleet of existing US F4 Phantom’s and F16’s. Thus, the logical conclusion is that Turkey will purchase new military planes from elsewhere, pushing Turkey further to the east, logically to Russia and China. Russia has already offered its advanced SU-57 fighter, a warplane which competes directly with the F35’s.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s S-400’s will provide a defense versus Israeli aircraft and attacks in Syria, in regions where Turkey has an interest such as Afrin, when the Patriot missiles won’t. Recall that Erdogan is sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, so relations between Turkey and Israel are not the best. Turkey has interests in offshore oil around Cyprus too, in opposition to the Israeli’s, and has pipeline interests in the Middle East that conflict with the Israeli agenda.
Israel has deferred its air attacks in Syria for now, while Syrian security forces clean up in the Northwest. Syrian forces are being upgraded with S-400’s too, which will make Israeli air attacks on Damascus far riskier than in the past, and Israel is certainly risk averse where its IAF is concerned.
Another factor is the stalemate in Syria. The United States wants Turkey to maintain its support for the NLF in the northwest, to keep pressure on the Syrian leadership and assist with continuing US efforts for regime change. The United States wants some form of control around Manbij too, to prevent a Turkish assault on the YPG and SLF forces there. In other words, the US wants to maintain its position in Manbij for its continuing efforts for Syrian regime change.
So the US needs Turkey’s support in Syria, and cannot afford to impose sanctions over the S-400’s that would further drive Turkey toward Russia, while the US must retain Turkey within NATO too; thus the US is powerless to take any substantive action versus Turkey over the S-400’s, besides the rather minor action of barring Turkey from purchasing US F35’s, as it has done.
Although the US has no power to affect the Libyan conflict other than to sell weaponry to both sides, the US does have some interest in supporting Turkey in keeping Sarraj and the GNA afloat. That’s because the US opposes a Haftar win in Libya, and the US wants Turkey to continue to rely on Misrata oil, and not turn back to Iran for cheap oil imports.
Finally, we must watch the war theaters in Syria and Libya, and the new US tensions with Iran, for tactical developments regarding Washington’s own ageing hegemon, as traditional alliances rapidly morph and diversify.
Steve Brown is the author of “Iraq: the Road to War” (Sourcewatch) editor of “Bush Administration War Crimes in Iraq” (Sourcewatch) “Trump’s Limited Hangout” and “Federal Reserve: Out-sourcing the Monetary System to the Money Trust Oligarchs Since 1913”; Steve is an antiwar activist, and a published scholar on the US monetary system.