WASHINGTON — US sales of drones to Turkey are still under consideration.
“The United States continues to work through our approach to exporting unmanned systems to our closest allies, including Turkey,” a Pentagon official told JTA on Tuesday.
The official would not comment directly on reports originating in the Turkish press that the Obama administration had canceled the sale of 10 Predator drones to Turkey in retaliation for Turkey’s alleged exposure to Iran of 10 operatives working for Israeli intelligence.
According to a report in the Turkish daily Taraf, the head of Turkey’s intelligence, Hakan Fidan, exposed the 10 Iranians – who had secretly been meeting with Mossad handlers – to the Islamic Republic more than three years ago, after the Israeli takeover of the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara. Nine Turkish citizens were killed in the operation, which led to Ankara’s all but freezing its relations with Israel.
The US drones were to be delivered to Turkey in mid-2012, but according to the report, Congress canceled the deal because of the growing cooperation between the Turkish and Iranian intelligence services.
A spokesman for the State Department, which finalizes such sales, also would not comment, citing the policy of not making such sales public until Congress had been notified.
The drones each cost at least $4.5 million.