Obama Admin. to Sell Gunships to Turkey

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- At a time when relations between America's closest ally Israel and Turkey are faltering, the Obama administration plans to sell three Super Cobra helicopter gunships to Ankara, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported over the weekend.

Francis Ricciardone, U.S. ambassador to Ankara, seemed certain the deal would go through, according to the report. 

In the 1990s, Turkey purchased 10 AH-1W Super Cobras from the U.S., but it's down to six operational choppers to use in its war against Kurdish separatists just across the border in northern Iraq.

"We plan to transfer three AH-1Ws, but this needs to be approved by Congress, and our officials are working on that now," Hurriyet quoted a U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Under the Obama administration's plan, the Marines would acquire two new, late-model Textron Inc. Bell AH-1Z SuperCobras in exchange for the three AH-1W aircraft, the official said.

But some on Capitol Hill are concerned about the arms deal because of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's increasing animosity against Israel. 

Erdogan blamed Israel's refusal to apologize for the May 2010 confrontation aboard the blockade-busting flagship, Mavi Mamara, in which nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists were killed.

After severing diplomatic ties last month, Erdogan issued a string of threats against Israel, including a warning that Israeli planes entering Turkish airspace in the future could be considered "unfriendly."

Interestingly, Hurriyet quoted one Turkish defense official saying "the Super Cobra matter is another reason why the relations between Turkey and Israel should be warm. Otherwise, any pro-Israeli senator may kill it."

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