US distances itself from allegations about Hakan Fidan

25 October 2013 /TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL – The US State Department said Washington has no information regarding the source of allegations targeting Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan that recently appeared in international media in a statement released right after Israel denied the leak was from their side.

“Obviously, Turkey’s a close friend and ally. Turkey and Israel are both vital allies and friends of the United States. … I don’t even want to play a guessing game as to where this stuff [reports about Fidan] comes from that ends up in the press,” said Marie Harf, a spokesperson for the US State Department, on Wednesday.

The US State Department’s statement came a day after Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor denied that the source of the speculation that Turkey blew the cover of Iranian Mossad agents was Israel, adding that a leak of such information did not benefit Israel.

On Oct. 17, The Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote that the Turkish government had disclosed to Iranian intelligence officials the identities of up to 10 Iranians he claimed had been meeting with Mossad case officers, saying that his sources called the Turkish action a “significant loss of intelligence” and “an effort to slap the Israelis.” He said Israeli intelligence officers, speaking to CIA officials several years ago, described National Intelligence Organization (MİT) chief Hakan Fidan as “the [Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and National Security] MOIS station chief in Ankara.”

When Harf was asked about the reports claiming that the US Congress vetoed the sale of a weapons system to Turkey last year because of revelations regarding Fidan, Harf said Congress was the authority to answer this question.

“We attach great importance to the need for and benefit of positive relations between them [Israel and Turkey]. … [The US] will keep working with both of these governments going forward,” added Harf. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, speaking to reporters on a plane heading to Kuwait late on Wednesday, said Turkey relayed its discomfort about “the circles behind news stories” targeting Fidan to the US. Davutoğlu added that the US said it had received Turkey’s message about this issue.

Davutoğlu added that Harf’s remarks clearly indicated that the US administration had distanced itself from such allegations.

“There is no channel to deliver [our discomfort about reports related to Fidan] to Israel,” the foreign minister told reporters. The foreign minister also reiterated that the claims about Fidan were part of a “smear campaign” and a “psychological operation” against Turkey.

During the daily press briefing on Wednesday, Harf also responded to questions regarding Turkey’s selection of a Chinese air and missile defense system and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s response to US criticism regarding Turkey’s choice. Harf said the US continues to convey “serious concerns” about Turkey’s contract discussions with the Chinese Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation (CPMIEC) to purchase the FD-2000 missile defense system.

On Wednesday, Erdoğan noted that some NATO member countries have Russian weapons, underscoring that the selection of a missile system is Turkey’s “sovereign decision.” Responding to Erdoğan’s arguments, Harf said some NATO countries “inherited stockpiles of Soviet weaponry when the Warsaw Pact collapsed” and added that the Soviet hardware is, of course, not interoperable with the current NATO system. “I haven’t heard about that example. I’m happy to look into it,” said Harf when commenting on Greece’s very recent purchase of Russian S-300s. When the spokeswoman was asked if Turkey’s choice of the Chinese company was regarded as “wrong” by Washington, she said the US believed it is the wrong choice as it gives importance to interoperability.