State Dept. Defends Arms Sales to Turkey Despite Hamas Ties

Dept. has been holding up shipments to Israel

A Turkish soldier stands by a tank as he patrols the border with Syria
A Turkish soldier stands by a tank as he patrols the border with Syria / AP
August 18, 2014

The State Department defended missile sales to Turkey just hours after news emerged that Ankara is hosting and abetting a senior Hamas operative who planned to violently overthrow the Palestinian government in the West Bank and wage war on Israel.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf defended the transfer of Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) to Turkey just days after she was forced to explain why the White House had stepped in to block similar weapons shipments to Israel.

Reporters at Harf’s daily briefing expressed confusion as to why arms shipments would be stopped to Israel yet permitted to Turkey, despite the latter nation’s increasing anti-Semitism and efforts to bolster Hamas terrorists.

Israeli security officials revealed early Monday that it had disrupted a plot to infiltrate the West Bank and overthrow the moderate government. It is believed that the plot was orchestrated by a Hamas leader in Turkey who also helped plan the kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teens earlier this year.

Harf was asked Monday afternoon to explain why President Barack Obama is giving Turkey high-tech arms while holding up shipments to Israel, a move that has drawn outrage in the pro-Israel community.

Harf defended the "extra care" the Obama administration is exerting over Israeli shipments and said that it is "important" to give Turkey arms right now.

"Turkey is also a NATO ally," she said. "So for all of us who are—talk a lot about the importance of the NATO alliance, particularly when it comes to Russia and Ukraine and what’s happening there, we think it’s important to provide our NATO allies with resources. We think that’s an important use of our resources. The two [cases] aren’t comparable, but those are the facts behind them, I would say."

Harf said that she could not explain the precise process taking place behind the scenes regarding the hold up in Israeli arms shipments.

"I don’t know how the process specifically works in that granularity," she said, when asked to explain who holds veto power over the arms shipments.

When asked later in the briefing to comment on reports about the Turkey-backed Hamas coup, Harf could not provide much information.

"I don’t have anything to confirm those [reports]," she said. "I hadn’t heard about that otherwise. I can check," she told reporters.

Harf did not respond to further Washington Free Beacon requests for comment on whether the Obama administration has expressed its concerns with Turkey over the recently discovered terror plot.

A senior official at the Turkish Embassy also did not respond to requests for comment on whether the Obama administration had raised concerns with it about the coup plot.

Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Treasury Department, said there is no evidence that the Obama administration and its partners are expressing dismay with Turkey and attempting to address its support for Hamas.

"I am deeply concerned that NATO and the State Department have yet to raise this issue with Turkey," Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), told the Free Beacon.

"The fact remains that Turkey’s Hamas policy is a deeply troubling one," he said. "It is not appropriate for a U.S. ally or a NATO ally to be providing Hamas operatives with safe haven."

Schanzer further suggested that there may be more than one Hamas operative currently residing in Turkey at this time.

The Hamas operative at the center of the current plot to foster unrest in the West Bank, Saleh Al-Arouri, has long been on the U.S. government’s radar. Al-Arouri was singled out earlier this year for playing a chief role in orchestrating the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers.

"This is a guy that is not an unknown to the U.S. government," Schanzer said. "His name came up as a person of interest after the kidnapping, was widely acknowledged to be the head of the Qassam Brigades in the West Bank, and has been identified as being part of several high level Hamas delegations and been in meetings with world leaders, including the Emir of Kuwait" as well as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"It’s obviously raising some very troubling questions about his activities in Turkey," Schanzer said. "It appears he’s been running [Hamas’] West Bank operation out of Turkey for the past two years."