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It’s not even Christmas yet, and the U.S. House is set to deliver to Turkey a holiday present that would make any nation drool. On the gift list are two Oliver Hazard Perry class guided missle frigrates, the USS Halyburton and the USS Thach:
H.R. 6649 (PDF)was just introduced and referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on December 11th, yet it may come up for a vote in the House as soon as tomorrow. The Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2012 provides for the transfer of U.S. of naval vessels to certain foreign recipients. One of the transfers is via sale (to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office of the United States) while the remaining transfers are grants (to Mexico, Thailand and Turkey).
The possible grant of these two vessels to Turkey should trouble U.S. citizens. That Turkey has been turning away from the West is a fact well-recited in news outlets across the political spectrum. What has received lesser attention is the fact that Turkey has used its military forces to increase tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey has repeatedly used its naval forces in an attempt to intimidate Cyprus and Israel as those countries explore the natural gas deposits in their exclusive economic zones. The Turkish Navy has “held live fire exercises near the natural gas fields of Israel and the Republic of Cyprus” in a move that was roundly condemned by officials who called out Turkish for its “gunboat diplomacy.”
Most troubling is that Turkey has insisted on using its warships for intimidation even in the face of U.S. interests in the region. As CNN reported:
Houston-based Noble Energy began drilling Sunday night on the southern coast of Cyprus, according to the state-run Cyprus News Agency.
Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said his country would respond by doing drilling of its own, perhaps within the week. He said the drilling ship might be escorted by Turkish warships.
Omer Celik, Vice Chairman of the ruling AK Party who oversees foreign affairs, took to Twitter to boast about the use of warhips for Turkish provocation, noting:
“Piri Reis, escorted by warships, has started research in the same area where Greek Cypriots are exploring,” , said on Twitter.
“We have shown clearly to everyone that we will not allow the eastern Mediterranean to become a Greek Cyprus-Israel goal,” he said in another message.
Turkey’s use of its warships to increase tensions in the region isn’t just limited to the use of those warships to lay claim to natural gas resources. Turkey has promised to use its warships to confront Israel in any future flotilla incidents.
These threats of force are not the only instances of Turkey working against vital U.S. interests. Turkey has actively worked to undermine sanctions policy against Iran, and as recently as this week has sought waivers from U.S. sanctions in order to continue their purchases of Iranian oil. By contrast, Greece — which has no room for economic sacrifice — cut off purchases of Iranian oil months ahead of the sanctions taking full effect. Turkey also abandoned the Armenian Protocols — a U.S. backed initiative to normalize relations between Armenia and Turkey and establish stability in the Caucusus. With its key geographic position, Turkey could be a force for stability in several regions and on three continents. In the past four years, Turkey has become exactly the opposite.
That the U.S. House is considering adding U.S.-made frigates to Turkey’s arsenal when those very vessels may be used to further Turkey’s antagonistic behavior towards Greece, Cyprus and Israel should trouble all citizens interested in regional stability in the Mediterranean region. Members may be tempted to vote for the bill because of a provision requiring repair of refurbishments of these vessels at a U.S. shipyard. Yet, there are better methods for job creation than undermining the interests of the United States and its allies Greece, Cyprus and Israel in the region. Congress should vote against H.R. 6649.Back to top