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    Trouble in Paradise? Turkey, US Clash Over Weapons, Security

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    Despite the longstanding alliance between the US and Turkey, diverging ideas over how to combat the Daesh extremist group, also known as IS/Islamic State, may strain those ties.

    Last month, the Turkish military announced plans to accelerate the development of its own armed drone, citing terrorist threats.

    "The best method is to monitor the region [under Daesh control] and mobile threats, and to have capabilities to hit the threat at its origin…like armed drones," said Turkey’s chief procurement official Ismail Demir, according to Defense News.

    But the plan may be less about an immediate terrorist threat and more a sign of rising tensions between Turkey and its primary weapons provider, the United States.

    "I don’t want to be sarcastic but I would like to thank [the US government] for any of the projects that was not approved by the US because it forced us to develop our own systems," Demir said Sunday.

    The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed severe misgivings over the Pentagon’s cooperation with the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG), a group Ankara views as a terrorist organization. Photos that emerged last week showed US Special Forces operating with the YPG insignia.

    "I am someone who believes that politics should be conducted honestly," Erdogan declared, adding, "Therefore, our allies, those who are with us in NATO, cannot and should not send their own soldiers to Syria, with insignias of the YPG."

    While Washington appears willing to cooperate with the Kurds in the fight against Daesh, Turkey’s development of its UAV, dubbed the Bayraktar, means that Ankara would, in the future, be less tethered to US foreign policy.

    Demir added that Washington has not approved Ankara’s request, made seven years ago, for the sale of US-made Predator drones.

    "Unfortunately in the case of armed drones, on our part, we have closed that page," he said, looking toward the Bayraktar.

    Still, while Turkey may disenchanted with their old friends, the United States needs both the Turkish government and the Kurds in its battles in the region.

    "It’s not that it needs both just now; it will need both in its future campaigns against the jihadists," a western security analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Defense News.

    "A return to peace negotiations by the Turks and the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] may help resolve the dispute but this does not seem like a realistic option, at least in the next year or a year and a half."

    European allies are also concerned about what a rift between Ankara and Washington could mean for the future.

    "This is worrying," a NATO diplomat told Defense News. "We hope the [US-Turkish] differences should not cause any operational weakness or lack of cohesion [in the allied campaign]."

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    Tags:
    MQ-1 Predator drone, Bayraktar, Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Pentagon, Daesh, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ismail Demir, Syria, Turkey, United States
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