Turkey sees improvement in S-400, F-35 talks with US, but preparing for potential sanctions: defense minister

Above, Russian S-400 air defense missile systems at an airfield at the Hmeimim airbase in the Syrian province of Latakia in this November 26, 2015 photo. (Russian Defense Ministry/AFP)
Updated 23 May 2019

Turkey sees improvement in S-400, F-35 talks with US, but preparing for potential sanctions: defense minister

  • Turkey and the US are at odds over Ankara’s decision to buy the S-400s, which cannot be integrated into NATO systems
  • Turkey evaluating a US offer to purchase the Raytheon’s Patriot systems

ANKARA: Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said he sees an improvement in talks with the United States over the purchase of Russian S-400 defense systems and US F-35 fighter jets, but added that Ankara was also preparing for potential US sanctions.
Turkey and the United States are at odds over Ankara’s decision to buy the S-400s, which cannot be integrated into NATO systems. Washington says the move would jeopardize Ankara’s role in building Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets, which it says would be compromised by the S-400s.
Speaking to reporters late on Tuesday, Akar said that Turkey was fulfilling its responsibilities in the F-35 project and that Ankara expected the program to continue as planned. He said talks with US officials were still underway.
He also said Turkey was evaluating a US offer to purchase the Raytheon Co. Patriot systems, adding that Ankara and Washington were working on price, technology transfer, joint production issues on the latest offer from US officials.

Akar said their military personnel are receiving training to operate the S-400 missile defense system.

Turkey has repeatedly said that the S-400 agreement is a “done deal” and cannot be canceled but Akar said US officials insist that “no deal is a done deal.”


Hardline Guards make early gains in restricted Iran election

Updated 18 min 5 sec ago

Hardline Guards make early gains in restricted Iran election

  • A clean sweep for hard-liners would confirm the political demise of the country’s pragmatist politicians
  • However, Iranian authorities have yet to announce the turnout in the race for the 290-seat legislature

DUBAI: Candidates affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards looked on course to win a parliamentary majority on Saturday, reportedly leading in the race in Tehran and towns and villages elsewhere, after a vote stacked in favor of the anti-American hard-liners.
An Interior Ministry official said a list of candidates affiliated with the Guards led in the capital, and lists linked to hard-liners captured 55 seats in towns and villages across the country following Friday’s vote.
A clean sweep for hard-liners would confirm the political demise of the country’s pragmatist politicians, weakened by Washington’s decision to quit a 2015 nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions in a move that stifled rapprochement with the West.
However, Iranian authorities have yet to announce the turnout in the race for the 290-seat legislature — a litmus test of the popularity of hard-liners closely associated with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Khamenei.
Iran’s rulers, under intense US pressure over the country’s nuclear program, need a high turnout to boost their legitimacy, damaged after nationwide protests in November.
Such a result would help the Guards, already omnipresent in Iranians’ daily lives, to increase their already substantial influence in political, social and economic affairs.
The demonstrations, which called for regime change, were met with a violent crackdown overseen by the Guards which killed hundreds and led to the arrest of thousands, according to human rights organizations.
Iranians long for stability after a succession of political and economic crises.

Mounting US pressure
In the latest challenge for Khamenei, Iran announced 10 new cases of coronavirus were detected, one of whom has died. The new infections bring the total cases of new coronavirus in the country to 28, with five of the total having died.
Khamenei faces mounting pressure from the United States over Iran’s nuclear program and discontent over mismanagement over the economy is unlikely to ease as sanctions squeeze the Islamic Republic.
President Donald Trump raised the stakes in his standoff with Tehran when Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike at Baghdad airport in January.
The spokesman for the watchdog Guardian Council Abbasali Kadkhodai predicted that the turnout will be around 50%, telling state television on Friday that the Iranian nation had disappointed its enemies by voting in large numbers.
Turnout was 62% in the 2016 parliamentary vote and 66% of people voted in 2012.
Large gains in Friday’s vote may also hand hard-liners another bonus — more leeway to campaign for the 2021 contest for president, a job with wide day-to-day control of government.
Parliamentary elections have little impact on Iran’s foreign or nuclear policies, which are set by Khamenei, and major pro-reform parties have been either banned or dismantled since 2009.
But the vote shows shifts in the factional balance of power in Iran’s unique dual system of clerical and republican rule.
The Guardian Council, a hard-line vetting body, has disqualified 6,850 hopefuls out of 14,000, ranging from moderates to conservatives, from contesting parliament polls. About a third of sitting lawmakers have also been barred.