In FY 2019 America Sold $55 Billion In Weapons — The Turkish Invasion of Syria Was “Made In The USA”
The U.S. sold $55.4 billion worth of weapons to allies and partners around the globe in fiscal year 2019.
Lt. Gen. Charles Hooper, the head of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency: “We’re gonna win this thing folks. Working together — industry, private sector, the implementing agencies, DoD, State — all of us. We’re gonna win this thing.”
“FORBES” By William Hartung
“Decades of U.S. assistance and sales have helped create a Turkish military that relies heavily on U.S.-made weaponry.
The Turkish Air Force’s stock of combat aircraft is composed entirely of U.S.-supplied fighter and fighter/ground attack (FGA) planes.”
“After essentially giving a green light to Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria to attack the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) forces, President Trump took a slight turn when he declared that there would be severe economic consequences for Turkey if the intervention was not carried out in a “humane” fashion.
If the president were to take action to try to stem a military incursion that he helped facilitate, he could start by cutting off support for Turkey’s military, which is heavily dependent on U.S.-supplied equipment.
The most effective thing the president or Congress could do to hamper Turkey’s military efforts is to cut off spare parts and sustainment of its U.S.-supplied weapons, both of which are crucial to the continued operation of the Turkish military machine.
Of 333 combat aircraft possessed by Turkey, 53 are older generation F-5 fighter planes, and 280 are fighter/ground attack planes that are all variants of the F-16, which is co-produced in Turkey. Turkey also has 31 U.S.-origin C-130 transport aircraft.
The United States has supplied the majority of Turkey’s more than 2,400 Main Battle Tanks, including over 900 variants of the M-1 and 850 older generation M-48s, which were purchased in the 1960s and 1970s and modernized in the mid-1980s. In addition, over two-thirds of Turkey’s more than 3,600 armored personnel carriers are U.S.-made M-113s.
U.S. arms sales are often justified on the grounds that they create “interoperability” with key allies so they can fight alongside the U.S. in a crisis. It is less often noted that arms sales also pose substantial risks that U.S.-supplied weapons may be used to abuse human rights, attack civilians, or otherwise act in a fashion contrary to U.S. interests. The most egregious recent example of this phenomenon has been Saudi Arabia’s use of U.S. arms to bomb civilians in Yemen and spark the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Turkey’s invasion of Syria is another example of U.S. arms being misused. The Turkish action should be a cautionary tale for Congress as it grapples with how best to monitor and control U.S. arms transfers.
Congress has already taken a large step forward in recent years in its attempts to cut off U.S. arms and military assistance to the brutal Saudi-led war in Yemen, from using the War Powers Resolution to voting down specific arms sales. Unfortunately, these unprecedented efforts have been vetoed by President Trump, in part under the false assumption that arms sales to Saudi Arabia are a major boon to the U.S. economy.
President Trump’s lack of knowledge of how arms sales work was on display once again when he cited Turkey’s role in producing components for the U.S. F-35 combat aircraft as a reason to maintain the alliance in the face of Turkey’s unacceptable and potentially devastating intervention in Syria. In fact, the United States has suspended Turkey’s involvement in the F-35 program in a dispute over Ankara’s decision to buy Russian S-400 air defense systems. Either someone forgot to tell the president, or he was just engaged in the sort of fact-free riffing that has become one of his hallmarks.
To add insult to injury, it ends up U.S. weapons are being used on both sides of the current battle in Syria. A fact sheet produced by the Center for International Policy’s Security Assistance Monitor has pointed out that the vetted Syrian opposition — including Syrian Kurdish forces — have received roughly $2 billion in U.S. “train and equip” assistance, including a $300 million request in Fiscal Year 2019. But it’s not a fair fight. The Kurdish forces have received mostly rifles, ammunition, and rocket launchers, while Turkey has U.S.-supplied fighter planes, tanks, and bombs.
In the 1970s, when U.S.-armed Greek and Turkish forces were fighting each other in Cyprus, it was a significant factor in prompting Congress to pass the Arms Export Control Act, which forced the Pentagon to inform Congress of major arms sales in advance and set up a mechanism for Congress to block sales that were not deemed to be in the national interest. Perhaps it’s time for an overhaul of that act that strengthens Congress’s leverage over arms sales decisions, perhaps by requiring positive Congressional approval before sensitive sales move forward. It’s time to highlight the risks of runaway arms trading, not just the alleged benefits.”
About the Author:
WilliamHartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. He is the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex (Nation Books, 2011) and the co-editor, with Miriam Pemberton, of Lessons from Iraq: Avoiding the Next War (Paradigm Press, 2008). His previous books include And Weapons for All (HarperCollins, 1995), a critique of U.S. arms sales policies from the Nixon through Clinton administrations.