House lawmaker introduces bill to halt F-35 sale to Turkey

House lawmaker introduces bill to halt F-35 sale to Turkey
© Greg Nash

House Foreign Affairs Committee member David Cicilline (D-R.I.) is renewing last year’s efforts to block an F-35 fighter jet sale to Turkey over its military aggression toward U.S.-backed forces and concerns the NATO ally is becoming too cozy with Russia.

Cicilline on Thursday introduced a bipartisan bill that would prohibit the sale or transfer of F-35s and any related intellectual property or data until President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push MORE certifies that Turkey is not “taking steps to degrade NATO interoperability, exposing NATO assets to hostile actors,” or “degrading the general security of NATO member states.”

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It also must not be “seeking to import or purchase defense articles from a foreign country with respect to which sanctions are imposed by the United States; wrongfully or unlawfully detaining one or more nationals of the United States or aliens law; or engaging in military action without taking proper steps to ensure that international legal norms are followed to prevent civilian deaths and suffering.”

The bill was co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Ted YohoTheodore (Ted) Scott YohoSecrecy behind Saudi nuclear talks infuriates Congress Congress can finally ensure horses are not tortured for ribbons and prizes Trump's decision on health care law puts spotlight on Mulvaney MORE (Fla.), Gus Bilirakis (Fla.) and Robert AderholtRobert Brown AderholtDems advance bill defying Trump State Department cuts Maryland raises legal tobacco purchasing age to 21 Anti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age MORE (Ala.), and Democratic Reps. John SarbanesJohn Peter Spyros SarbanesHillicon Valley: Instagram cracks down on anti-vaccine tags | Facebook co-founder on fallout from call to break up company | House Dems reintroduce election security bill | Lawmakers offer bill requiring cyber, IT training for House House Dems reintroduce bill to protect elections from cyberattacks Leader McConnell, let us vote MORE (Md.), Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneMcConnell, Kaine introduce bill to raise tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate Work on surprise medical bills goes into overdrive MORE (N.J.) and Jim McGovern (Mass).

Washington is poised to hand over the first of an eventual 116 F-35 Lightning II fighters to Turkey, which has committed to buy the F-35A variant under the U.S.-led, multinational Joint Strike Fighter program.

But Turkey lately has been a cause for concern.

The Turkish government for 18 months has imprisoned American pastor Andrew Brunson, accusing him of aiding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in a failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Ankara in December also announced that it finalized a contract with Russia for the S-400 long-range air-defense system.

The sale has NATO members worried, as the S-400 is not interoperable with NATO defense systems.

Washington and Ankara are also at odds over how to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The U.S. has backed the Kurdish forces in Syria in their fight against ISIS, but Turkey considers the Kurdish groups to be terrorists and in March seized Afrin, Syria, from a Kurdish militia. The United States said it was “deeply concerned” by the incident.

“We cannot turn a blind eye to Turkey’s thuggish, reprehensible behavior,” Cicilline said in a statement on the bill’s release. “There have to be consequences for any regime that commits such horrific human rights abuses and constantly steps out of line with our own interests. ... It’s important that we hold NATO members to the same standard we would hold any other country.”

In addition, Cicilline has proposed the F-35 ban as an amendment to the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed by the House Armed Services Committee last week. The House is expected to take up the bill and deal with amendments next week.

The amendment lists the same stipulations as in Cicilline’s newly introduced bill and spells out that no funds for the NDAA may be used to transfer F-35 aircraft to Turkey until such parameters are met.

Cicilline last year offered an amendment in the fiscal 2018 NDAA that also blocked the transfer of F-35s to Turkey, citing the violence carried out by bodyguards for Erdoğan.

That amendment would have blocked the F-35 sale until Trump certified that Turkey “is cooperating with the criminal investigation and prosecution of Turkish Government employees involved in the assault on civilians in Washington, D.C,. on May 17, 2017.”

The amendment did not make it out of the House Rules Committee and was not debated on the floor. 

The House NDAA already has a provision that would to hold all U.S. weapons sales to Turkey until a report is created to analyze worsening tensions between Washington and Ankara.

separate Senate bill introduced last month would block Turkey from receiving F-35s over the imprisonment of Brunson.