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Posted at 02:28 PM ET, 11/04/2011

Some in Congress balk at arms sale to Turkey


The AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter at an air base in the Gulf region. (Julie Jacobson — Associated Press)

Time may not be on their side, but some members of Congress are still trying to make the Pentagon sweat over a proposed weapons sale to Turkey.

Reps. Shelley Berkely (D-Nev.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) have introduced a bill that seeks to block the Defense Department from selling three AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters to Turkey. The lawmakers said they want to scuttle the deal because they’re unhappy with Turkey for not getting along better with three neighbors: Israel, Armenia and Cyprus.

“We are deeply concerned by Turkey’s increased saber rattling, its threats against Israel, its outlook toward the European Union, its occupation of Cyprus and its unrelenting blockade of Armenia,” Berkley and Engel said in a joint statement Friday. “The U.S. should be busy raising these very serious concerns with Turkey, rather than selling arms to them.”

The Democrats have three Republican co-sponors on the bill: Reps. Michael Grimm (N.Y.), Gus Bilirakis (Fla.) and Ed Royce (Calif.).

The Pentagon formally notified Congress Oct. 28 that it intended to sell the choppers to Turkey as part of a package — including parts, maintenance and training — valued at $111 million.

Under the law, Congress has 15 days to pass legislation that would either block or modify the sale; otherwise the deal automatically goes through. That leaves only eight days for Congress to get moving, a fast-closing deadline that the bill’s sponsors might have a tough time making.

Even if they fail this time, however, the sale of the choppers is probably only round one in a much bigger fight with the Pentagon and Obama administration over selling Predator or Reaper drones to Turkey.

The Turks have been keen for years to acquire some drones to help them crack down against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq. The Pentagon wants to oblige, but acknowledged this week that Congress isn’t as eager.

By  |  02:28 PM ET, 11/04/2011

 
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