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The United States has reportedly cancelled the delivery of 10 unmanned Predator drones to Turkey following Ankara’s disclosure of several Israeli intelligence officials operating in Iran, according to Turkish press reports.
The cancellation of these drones would be another setback for U.S.-Turkey relations, which have cooled in recent months as Ankara grows closer to Hamas and the Iranian regime.
Relations between Turkey and the West hit another speed bump last week when it came to light that Ankara had exposed the identities of up to 10 Iranians working on behalf of the Israelis in 2012.
Turkey’s efforts to undermine Israeli operations in Iran provoked a sharp response on Capitol Hill and reportedly led lawmakers to cancel a scheduled shipment of 10 Predator drones, which are used by the Turks to combat terrorism, according to the Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman.
“The U.S. Congress's rejection of the delivery of 10 Predators to Turkey is interpreted as punishment of Turkey for sharing information about Mossad with the Iranian intelligence service,” the Zaman reported.
Foreign policy leaders in Congress have long expressed concern about Turkey’s business dealings with Iran, as well as its close relationship with the terror group Hamas.
“I am deeply disturbed by reports that Turkey deliberately exposed an Israeli intelligence operation inside Iran, which directly undermines Israel-Turkey rapprochement and Israeli security efforts against Iran,” Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.) said to the Free Beacon.
“This news is particularly concerning in light of Turkey’s ongoing gold exports to Iran and support for the terrorist organization Hamas,” said Roskam, who asked Secretary of State John Kerry in April to sanction a Turkish bank that has reportedly traded gold to Iran in exchange for oil.
“It is my hope that our ally Turkey will address these reports in a substantive way with all due haste.”
The intelligence disclosure is not the only issue concerning U.S. officials.
Turkey announced late last month that it had awarded a $3.4 billion defense contract to a Chinese firm that has been sanctioned by the United States.
The China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corp. (CPMIEC) was selected by Turkish officials to construct an advanced “long-range air and missile defense system,” according to Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News.
Turkey selected CPMIEC over competing bids from U.S. defense firms Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, as well as offers from several Russian and French firms, according to the report.
CPMIEC has been sanctioned by the United States for allegedly selling advanced weapons to Iran and Pakistan. It also is believed to have sold chemical weapons to Syria.
Terrorism experts said that Turkey is close to qualifying as an official state sponsor of terror.
Ankara has long abetted Iran in its attempts to skirt Western sanctions on its oil exports. Turkey is believed to have traded more than 60 tons of gold for Iranian crude oil.
The country also has been cited for its lax anti-terror finance laws.
“The overall trend is disturbing,” said Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Treasury Department. “From helping Iran evade sanctions to burning Israeli assets that were working to undermine Iran’s nuclear program to supporting Hamas and even allowing Hamas operatives on Turkish soil, Turkey is in danger of qualifying as a state sponsor of terror.”
“Recently it has also become clear that Turkey has failed to uphold its international obligations to maintain adequate counter terror finance laws and to enforce them,” Schanzer said. “This raises additional troubling questions about their role to fight terrorism both at home and abroad.”
Former Pentagon advisor Michael Rubin dubbed Turkey an "intelligence vulnerability" to the United States and said that it is time for Congress to get in touch with Ankara.
"By any objective measure, the United States should consider Turkey a state-sponsor of terror and an intelligence vulnerability," Rubin said. "Several years ago, Turkey said outright that they wanted to produce their own drones, and so it was sheer negligence that led the administration to transfer technology which the Turks were openly reverse engineering."