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U.S. said to have canceled drone delivery to Turkey

  |   Oct. 22, 2013 at 2:00 AM
ANKARA, Turkey, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- Washington canceled delivery of 10 Predator drones to Turkey after Ankara divulged the names of 10 Iranians who spied for Israel, a Turkish newspaper reported.

The decision not to ship the unmanned aerial vehicles was made by Congress after Turkey's early 2012 espionage disclosures, which came more than 20 months after the May 2010 Gaza flotilla raid in which Israeli commandos killed eight Turks and an American of Turkish descent.

Turkey, once ranked as Israel's closest ally in the Muslim world, sharply downgraded its diplomatic and military ties with Israel after the raid, expelling the Israeli ambassador in September 2011 after Israel refused to apologize for the deaths.

Two months later Israel canceled a $141 million contract to supply Turkey with an advanced aerial intelligence system. Jerusalem said at the time it feared the technology could end up in the hands of hostile regimes such as that of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A few months later, after the Turkish National Intelligence Organization, known by the Turkish initials MIT, suspended relations with the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, MIT chief Hakan Fidan disclosed to Iranian intelligence the identities of up to 10 Iranians who had been meeting inside Turkey with their Mossad case officers, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu denied the report but acknowledged Israel ran Iranian spies through Turkey and MIT monitored Israeli-Iranian covert meetings.

Turkey was expecting the General Atomics MQ-1 Predators, used in counter-terrorism, in June 2012. It announced an agreement in principle with the United States for the drones in September 2011.

Congress decided not to approve the agreement because of intelligence suggesting ties between MIT and Iran's intelligence service were growing, Taraf said.

The cancellation was interpreted in Ankara as punishment for sharing the Mossad information, the newspaper said.

The move to halt the sale would normally have been made by a joint congressional resolution, under the 1976 Arms Export Control Act, a United Press International review of the act indicated. Such moves typically come through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had no immediate comment on the Taraf report.

The White House, State Department and Defense Department also had no immediate comment, as did the offices of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz.

Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman, in following up on the Taraf report, linked the timing of the Predator cancellation news to NATO member Turkey's Sept. 26 announcement it chose a Chinese defense firm under sanctions by Washington to co-produce a $4 billion long-range air and missile defense system.

In choosing China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp. -- which Washington sanctioned for violating the Iran, North Korea, Syria Non-proliferation Act -- Ankara rejected rival U.S., French-Italian and Russian bids besides defying the sanctions.

A senior Turkish official told Taraf Ankara expected additional anti-Fidan news reports in the Western media in the coming days as part of a "war between intelligences."

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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