Turkey: Ankara Suspicious That Israel’s Security Behind U.S. Push Fo


October 25, 2010

Is the United States using NATO to protect its special friend in the
Middle East: Israel?

That’s what Turkey suspects may be behind a U.S.-led push for an
anti-missile defense system in Turkey, intended to ward off an
Iranian attack.

According to a report published Monday in the Turkish newspaper Today’s
Zaman, Ankara has sought and reportedly received explicit assurances
from the U.S. that intelligence gathered using the missile shield’s
sensors will not be shared with Israel.

American officials have not been shy about fingering Israel’s enemy,
Iran, as the major reason for deploying the system, citing Iranian
threats to Europe. But the article in Today’s Zaman was rife with
skepticism, pointing out that as a non-member, Israel is not eligible
for protection from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“In fact, given the unpredictability of the security situation across
the globe, it is possible that the missile defense system could even
be used against Israel some day in the future,” the article said.

“NATO is an organization that operates on the principle of collective
defense and an attack on an ally is considered an attack on the
entire alliance.”

It wouldn’t be the first time that the U.Ss. was torn between its
allegiance to NATO and its historic friendship with Israel. When
Israeli forces stormed a Turkish aid ship off Gaza in June, resulting
in the death of nine Turkish activists, Turkey threatened to invoke
the NATO Treaty, which could have obligated the U.S. to become
involved militarily.

A recent United Nations report found that several of the Turks
aboard the aid ship had been killed “execution-style” at close range,
further souring Turkey on Israel just before the scheduled Nov. 19
NATO summit in Lisbon, during which Turkey is expected to make a
decision on whether to allow elements of the the missile system to
be deployed on its territory.

Steven Pifer, a senior fellow specializing in security at the Brooking
Institution in Washington, said that any benefit to Israel from such
a system was likely incidental.

“Certainly a radar site that looks from Turkey toward Iran would
benefit Israel, but the Israelis are advanced in terms of their own
missile defense system,” Pifer told Babylon and Beyond. “I think
that because of their position in the region, [the Turks] are nervous
about singling out the Iranians as a threat.”

In the recent past, Turkey has pursued an independent policy in the
Middle East, maintaining good relations with Israel, its Arab neighbors
and Iran. That position has come under strain as Turkish-Israeli
relations deteriorate and Ankara strengthens its ties with Syria and
Iran. Turkey has come under fire recently for continuing its booming
trade with Iran despite sanctions that should be binding for all
U.N. member states.

The proposed ballistic missile defense system would be rolled out
in two phases. The first would entail the deployment of U.S. Navy
ships equipped with Standard Missile-3 interceptors in the eastern
Mediterranean sometime in the next two years. The second would see
the erection of a land-based radar site in Turkey by 2015.

Turkey initially objected to the new missile shield on grounds that
the wording of the agreement singled out Iran as a threat. Not only
does Turkey wish to maintain its friendship with Iran, but Iranian
hostilities toward the West are increasingly seen as having roots in
American and European support for Israel.

An editorial in the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News slammed
both the Turkish and American sides for being disingenuous in
their political games, accusing Turkey of trying to gloss over
the “inconvenient truth” about Iran while the U.S. plays the
Armenian-genocide card in an effort to pressure Ankara.

“Multi-billion dollar missile defense systems may be much loved by
military planners, engineers and defense contractors … but as a
defense in the age of terrorism, these technologically dubious designs
are worthless,” the article concluded. “We need a believable defense
against 21st-century threats.”

From: A. Papazian