Sunday, September 4, 2011

Turkey and Israel - Failed Alliance; Dangerous Talk

Not to be an alarmist and, as everyone knows I don't like predictions because they are based on the selective past, but the sort of warning issued by Turkey to Israel regarding the freedom of passage in the Eastern Med is not helpful. 

The anger in Ankara with Israel is palpable and not without reason; but its explosive PM is sometimes over-the-top in his frequently pointed remarks, and as I've previously pointed out, Turkey needs to learn a little more diplomacy in its pronouncements regardless of the obvious temptation to tell others to piss-off or imply military action.  The most recent example is the following: “Turkey would take every precaution it deems necessary for the safety of maritime navigation in the eastern Mediterranean.” (a reasonable statement by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto─člu) but which was followed by a clarification from an un-named Turkish official who said "A more aggressive strategy will be pursued. Israel will no longer be able to exercise its bullying practices freely...”  What the hell does that mean in terms of rules of engagement?

The region is in turmoil. Syria is in melt-down mode. A vote on Palestinian statehood is coming up at the UN. Egypt is still unstable. Hamas and Hezbollah are facing problems - the first with a still military controlled Egypt and the latter with the loss of Syria. A vote for Palestinian statehood may provoke a new intifada. Israel has already called up reserves. The US is pulling out and has no stomach for a fight with anyone.

A highly visible confrontation between the two naval forces would simply add to the regions problems and Turkish naval officers may run into equally nervous Israeli captains.  It's this sort of rhetoric that leads to "regrettable incidents resulting in loss of life".  Everyone needs to dial it down before the middle east goes up in flames.

Turkish warships will be more frequently seen in the area but their rules of engagement must be circumscribed and publicly announced.

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