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Another U.S. ally in the Middle East wants to develop military relations with China.

This time it’s Turkey. The government in Ankara is improving a range of ties with Beijing, and this includes the launching of defense cooperation.

Turkey wants to explore joint defense projects and arms purchases with China. Other prospects include joint exercises and training. All of these areas were discussed last week during a 10-day visit by Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Huseyin Kivrikoglu.

Kivrikoglu brought up with his Chinese hosts the prospect of purchasing unmanned air vehicles from Beijing. Officials said the Turkish commander invited China to bid in Ankara’s UAV project. Turkey wants to buy nine such systems, and the Chinese CATIC has been requested to join the competition.

Last year, the U.S. pressured Israel to give up much of its defense cooperation with China. The Bush administration is not expected to do the same with Turkey. First, the White House badly needs Turkey for the new U.S. policy of “smart sanctions” against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

More important, Turkey’s relationship with Beijing is largely that of a consumer of Chinese defense systems. Israel was supplying advanced technology that was bolstering the Chinese regime.

Iran, Russia have problems in sealing arms deal

Iranian and Russian leaders have visited each other so many times and gushed so many warm words that you’d think they would finally agree on the huge weapons deal they have been discussing for years. Not exactly.

Beyond the rhetoric, Moscow and Tehran can’t agree on the estimated multi-billion dollar defense deal. Iran wants the best of Russia’s aircraft, radar and anti-aircraft systems. A key request on the Iranian wish list is the advanced S-300V, the latest in air defense and which can also be used for missile defense.

But Russia is taking its time for two reasons. The first is U.S. pressure on Moscow. The Bush administration has been under heavy pressure by Turkey and Gulf Arab states to stop the Russian S-300 sale to Tehran. Gulf officials have warned that the system would dash all of the plans by the Gulf Cooperation Council to establish regional defense.

A second reason relates squarely to Iran. Russia doesn’t want to rupture relations with Washington and end up getting stiffed by Tehran. Intelligence sources said Moscow still has not obtained the terms of repayment that it wants from Iran. This would mean years of waiting for Iran to pay its debt – something that has hampered Russia’s construction of the Bushehr nuclear reactor project.


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