A truly bipartisan letter sponsored by 44 members of the US House of Representatives calls for the US to “prevent the planned delivery of F-35 Lightning II jets” to Turkey. “Turkey is actively operating to undermine US interests around the world,” the legislators said.
The letter was addressed to US Defense Secretary James Mattis and was postmarked June 15. The letter was signed by everyone from liberals Ro Khanna, Frank Pallone, Tulsi Gabbard to conservatives Randy Hultgren, Dana Rohrabacher and Ted Poe, demonstrating a growing anti-Turkey sentiment in Washington.
The F-35, better known as the Joint Strike Fighter, is one of the few fifth-generation jets in the world, and a shipment is slated to be delivered to Ankara in late June — but not if the lawmakers have their way.
“We must hold Turkey accountable for conduct that threatens US national security, undermines the interests of our partners and allies, and represents a broadside attack against fundamental democratic values,” the lawmakers said. “For these reasons, we urge you to take whatever steps necessary to prevent the planned delivery of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey.”
The F-35 rift is the latest marker of tension in the seemingly delicate military alliance between the US and Turkey under NATO.
The US and Turkey have clashed repeatedly over the issue of Kurds in Syria. While top US officials have commented in awe about how effectively Kurdish forces fought against Daesh in Syria’s civil war, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long condemned the Kurds, who it dismisses as terrorists. Many Kurds also live across the border in eastern Turkey.
Turkey “may be the biggest state-sponsor” of Daesh, Max Abrahms, of the US Council on Foreign Relations, told Sputnik News last year, adding that Turkey’s main interest in the Syrian crisis has always been to weaken the Kurds.
And for his part, US Major General James Jarrard, head of Special Operations against Daesh, said last year of the Kurds, “They have an indomitable will… They have been ferocious fighters and excellent leaders and pretty amazing tacticians.”
The thorny issue of US support for the Kurds also appeared as a point of concern in the lawmakers’ letter. “We have no confidence that Turkey will use F-35s responsibly in the region,” legislators said, adding that, “under the guise of targeting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Turkey has bombarded civilian areas and US-supported Kurdish YPG forces.”