Democrat congressman David Cicilline and Republican congressman Gus Bilirakis urged Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to get the State Department to immediately suspend “any export permits for US drone technology to Turkey pending a State Department review,” the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) reported on 25 July.
Key members of the United States government shared their concerns about Turkey’s drone activity in the Caucusus, South Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and North Africa, saying the potential for these drones to further destabilize flashpoints is “too great to ignore.”
The letter cites battlefield evidence from Artsakh confirming the use of US technology in Turkey’s Bayrakdar drones, deployed by Azerbaijan against Armenians.
“Over the last year, Turkish drones have been deployed by Azerbaijan against Armenian civilians in Artsakh, Syria, against Kurdish forces that have partnered with the US in the war against ISIS and in Libya’s civil war,” the letter states.
Cicilline and Bilirakis appealed to House members to join them in cosigning a letter calling on the Secretary of State Antony Blinken to issue a report on the broader ramifications of Turkey’s drone industry.
Turkey’s drone activity has been a controversial topic discussed by leading critical figures, who have been warning about the devastating role of Turkish drones in several recent military conflicts in Syria, in Nagorno-Karabakh, in Libya and in the fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) inside its own borders and in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
In the process, as Francis Fukuyama has noted, Turkey “has elevated itself to being a major regional power broker with more ability to shape outcomes than Russia, China, or the United States.”
The first ever unmanned aerial vehicles Turkey added to its inventory were Herons from Israel and GNAT model drones from the US. After a US ban on the export of the Predator and Reaper drones, which were the advanced versions of the GNAT, Turkey’s domestic drone production gained pace in the 2000s.
In July, Turkish drones attacked the UN-protected Makhmour Refugee Camp in Iraq that is located 180 km south of the Turkish border and hosts thousands of Kurdish refugees forcibly displaced from Turkey. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US Ambassador to the UN, stated that this drone attack is in breach of international and humanitarian law. A report by the Guardian also revealed that drones belonging to Turkey have been killing Kurdish civilians in Iraq.
Even though these drones were promoted as “domestic” productions, many countries, including the US, the UK, Canada and Germany, have supplied parts to the Turkish drones. Andair, a British company based in Hampshire, England, making precision aircraft components previously stopped supplying components to the Turkish drone company Baykar Savunma. Turkey could not have become an emerging drone-maker if a UK-based manufacturer had not supplied a crucial missile component to Turkish drone producer Baykar, the Guardian reported in 2019.