Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Is Erdogan being reckless? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Following the Turkish escalations towards Israel, which has occurred against the backdrop of Tel Aviv’s refusal to apologize to Ankara for the attack on the Turkish “Freedom Flotilla” that was heading to Gaza, the question that must be asked today is: Is the Turkish prime minister being reckless? Is Erdogan another Nasser?

It is difficult to answer “yes” or “no” to this question; however information indicates that Turkey’s actions may be calculated, and based on the changes that have taken place in the region, particularly the political earthquake witnessed by the Middle East this year. Those closely monitoring events will find a number of indications in this regard, most importantly is the timing, namely that the Turkish escalation towards Israel comes at a time when Ankara has decided to move away from its neutral [regional] position, allowing NATO to deploy the radar component of a US-sponsored missile shield project in its territory. This NATO anti-ballistic missile defense system aims to protect Europe from attacks from Iran, and so Turkey’s decision in this regard also explains the recent Iranian escalation against Ankara. As one Arab foreign minister informed me, “the most important thing in politics is timing”, and so Ankara has abandoned its unrealistic theory of “resetting problems” and announced its lack of neutrality towards Tehran. This is very important, and is something that will have a number of repercussions. This can be seen in the recent attacks carried out by Kurdish groups against Turkish targets; this may represent an escalation against Ankara as punishment for its position towards the al-Assad regime that is itself facing a popular uprising.

It is important here to recall that whilst Turkey refused then US President George W. Bush’s request to allow American troops to enter Iraq through its territory during the Iraq war, Ankara today is allowing President Obama to deploy an early-warning radar [as part of the US-led NATO’s missile defense system] on its soil with the objective of deterring Iran. This is a serious Turkish message to Israel, and particularly the Israeli army, to the effect that Ankara will not go too far with regards to freezing its relations with Tel Aviv. This is because the deployment of this military component on Turkish soil represents Ankara providing a great service to Israel, which is escalating its objections against Iran’s nuclear project.

This is not all regarding Turkey’s position towards Israel, for Ankara is also benefitting, arithmetically speaking, from the winds of change in the region, as opposed to Tehran. Therefore Turkey’s strained relations with Tel Aviv are not important right now, for Turkey is an active member of NATO who most recently addressed the madness of Gaddafi, whilst [Turkish Foreign Minister] Ahmet Davutoglu was one of the first foreign officials to visit Benghazi following the liberation of Tripoli. In addition to this, Turkey is not affected by the changes in Egypt, rather it benefits from the strengthening of the position of the Muslim Brotherhood there. In addition to this, Ankara is no longer occupied with Syrian – Israeli mediation, for al-Assad’s position [in Syria] does not make this possible today, particularly as his regime is on the verge of collapse. This [the collapse of the al-Assad regime] would also not harm the Turks, whilst even if al-Assad does manages to remain in power; he would be weak and isolated and will need Turkey, not vice versa.

Turkey is also today playing no role in Palestinian – Israeli mediation, particularly as [Palestinian President] Mahmoud Abbas is preparing for a major battle at the United Nations later this month in an attempt to secure the international recognition of a Palestinian state, whilst Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Hamas has extended its truce with Israel, despite all the attempts to explode the situation in the Gaza Strip in defense of al-Assad. This is not to mention Israel, who is itself today experiencing a kind of international isolation. Of course, Turkey believes – and this is something that is clear for all to see – that there is a vacuum in the region today; this is a role that Ankara is eager to fill by playing a leadership role in the region, at the expense of the Arabs and Iran.

Therefore, regardless of the surprise at the Turkish escalation towards Israel, we must closely look at all the information regarding Turkey, for Erdogan is not being reckless, rather he is acting as if he is another Nasser!