Turkish Aerospace Industries hires U.S. lobbying firm amid sanctions threat - analyst

Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) hired Washington lobbying firm Capitol Counsel as it faces new U.S. sanctions on the Turkish defence sector, Julian Pecquet, founder and editor of the Foreign Lobby Report, said on Wednesday.

TAI hired Capitol Counsel in July as a subcontractor for law firm Greenberg Traurig. Both companies were tasked with clearing the way for the $1.5 billion sale of 30 Turkish-made T-129 attack helicopters to Pakistan, Pecquet said.

Pecquet said the T-129s’ CTS800 engines are partly produced by U.S. company Honeywall, giving the U.S. government influence over the 2018 TAI deal with Pakistan to replace its Bell AH-1F Cobra gunships with the attack helicopters. 

When TAI’s contract with Greenberg Traurig was concluded on Oct. 29., Capitol Counsel started working directly for the Turkish company, Pecquet said.

Capitol Counsel is tasked with reaching out to the top members of the House and Senate foreign affairs committees to enable the sale of the helicopters to the Pakistan Army Aviation Corps after exports of the technology were blocked in recent years, Pecquet added.

But while Capitol Counsel was filing its lobbying disclosure on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced sanctions targeting Turkey’s Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB) under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Turkish Aerospace Industries is owned by SSB.  

Pecquet said CAATSA sanctions further complicated TAI’s lobbying efforts in the United States.:

‘’It remains unclear if the export license ban applies to Turkish Aerospace Industries or the specific helicopter sale to Pakistan. It’s also unclear if the ban will make it harder for U.S. companies such as Honeywell to participate in TAI projects such as the T-129 going forward.’’ 

‘’The sanctions should be a wake-up call to companies doing business with Turkey’s defence sector’’, Pecquet cited Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice-president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, as saying. 

“It’s a sign that the U.S. government no longer trusts the Turkish military, and that has significant ramifications for NATO,” Schanzer told Foreign Lobby Report.