Follow by Email

Monday, August 16, 2010

Obama Issued Arms Deal Ultimatum to Turkey? Not Exactly . . .

According to a Financial Times article entitled "US issues arms deal ultimatum to Turkey", Obama personally issued a warning to Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan that Ankara's position on Israel and Iran could could reduce the likelihood of obtaining U.S. weapons:

"President Barack Obama has personally warned Turkey’s prime minister that unless Ankara shifts its position on Israel and Iran it stands little chance of obtaining the US weapons it wants to buy.

Mr Obama’s warning to Recep Tayyip Erdogan is particularly significant as Ankara wants to buy American drone aircraft – such as the missile-bearing Reaper – to attack the Kurdish separatist PKK after the US military pulls out of Iraq at the end of 2011

. . . .

One senior administration official said: 'The president has said to Erdogan that some of the actions that Turkey has taken have caused questions to be raised on the Hill [Congress] . . . about whether we can have confidence in Turkey as an ally. That means that some of the requests Turkey has made of us, for example in providing some of the weaponry that it would like to fight the PKK, will be harder for us to move through Congress.'”

Note the contradiction in the Financial Times article: The article begins by telling us that Obama "personally" warned Erdoğan of an impending arms embargo. Afterwards, we are told what was truly said, i.e. that Obama warned that the U.S. Congress might act to block arms sales to Turkey. There's a big difference.

Note how the Obama administration earlier this month refused to terminate $100 million in military aid to Lebanon after the Lebanese Army attacked Israeli forces without provocation, and it fell upon the U.S. Congress (Representatives Lowey and Berman) to suspend this assistance (

None of this should come as a surprise. Obama has repeatedly demonstrated his inability to react swiftly and decisively to events, be it oil spills or street demonstrations in Tehran, and the warning given to Erdoğan amounted to little more than an attempt to pin the blame on Congress for any future strain upon American relations with Turkey.

Beyond Turkey's relationships with Israel and Iran, however, U.S. (and Israeli) arms sales to Turkey should also be conditioned upon Turkey's interaction with its Kurdish minority. I am horrified how the world reacted with a yawn to recent news reports that the Turkish military is using chemical weapons against the Kurds (see:

If only Obama had the courage to even mention in passing the plight of some 35 million Kurds, who were also attacked in the past with chemical weapons by Saddam, and who continue to be brutally oppressed by Turkey, Syria and Iran.

[Given the deterioration in relations between Turkey and Israel, Netanyahu's current visit to Athens is no accident and marks the first official visit to Greece of an Israeli prime minister.]


  1. The article's title says about "ultimatum", even though no ultimatum is mentioned in the text. Instead, it should be titled: Obama complains to Turkey about disagreements he has with US Congress.

    Use of chemical weapons against Kurds was one of the main arguments for war with Saddam. Now, nobody cares!

    I think we are lucky that Obama does not react swiftly often: we know enough about his gut reactions to appreciate it.

  2. Marina,

    You are absolutely correct - there was no "ultimatum" from Obama, as indicated in the article's title.