Sunday, 25 November 2012

Turkey, Israel, NATO and Patriot Missiles

Turkey has asked NATO to provide it with Patriot Missiles, for deployment on its southern border – Reuters. The reason being given is Turkey's concern about a possible threat from Syria. I doubt this is the real reason.

For one thing, there is no reason that Syria would launch an attack on Turkey. It would be suicide, at a time when the Syrian regime has enough problems to deal with. On the contrary, it is Turkey, which has been probing Syria's borders. That is what caused one of its jets to be shot down several months ago. Syria is conducting operations along its border with Turkey against rebel forces, and that has led to several strikes within Turkish territory, as well as apparently the rebels themselves firing mortars into Turkey to try to provoke a Turkish response against Syria. But, that is hardly the same as a serious Syrian attack on Turkey that would justify the deployment of Patriot Missiles.

Nor is it likely that a desperate Syrian regime, about to be toppled would simply fire off missiles hither and thither. As things stand, if the regime's back was really against the wall, Assad and his family could probably escape to Russia, and so would many of its other top officials. The bigger problem in relation to Syria's stock of chemical weapons and missiles, would be rather that the jihadists who would then take over, would then have control of them. That would be likely to pose a bigger problem for Israel than it would for Turkey!

Turkey, the once Colonial Power of the region, is seeking to once more become the dominant regional power. It has been pushing for the establishment of a no-fly zone over Syria. Given that the US and others have shown little interest in themselves getting involved, the establishment of a “No-Fly Zone”, would give Turkey the legitimacy to take the lead in implementing it, thereby furthering its own regional ambitions. Its possible that under those circumstances, Turkey might want to have the additional security of Patriot Missiles for defence were such a “No-Fly Zone”, as they tend to do, develop into an actual offensive campaign by Turkey. Its what the installing of Patriot Missiles in Turkey – a NATO member - by NATO, signifies. It would signify NATO giving the go ahead for such a campaign, for Turkey to become NATO's chosen agent in the region. For Turkey, seeking to expand its role, as against Israel, that is important.  Its unlikely that Turkey wants the missiles to defend against Syrian air attacks.  Although, Raytheon the maker of Patriots say they are an effective measure against planes, a contributor from the Royal United Services Institute in a TV discussion, the other day, said they are not designed for use against planes, and are too expensive for such use.

But, for Turkey, as suggested recently - Oppose Turkish Intervention In Israel-Palestine – there is another reason for wanting Patriot Missiles installed on its border by NATO. If Turkey is to pursue its Neo-Ottoman strategy, it must be able to assume the role of leading Muslim forces in the region. As Israel launched its murderous attacks on Gaza last week, Hamas held talks both with Qatar, and with Turkey. But, it has been President Morsi that has stolen the limelight. Important functions have been transferred to Cairo, and it was Egypt that negotiated the deal between Hamas and Israel. If Turkey is to pursue its ambitions, it will be lead increasingly to step up to the plate in opposing Israel. Turkey will not want to do that without feeling that it has NATO standing behind it. Demanding Patriot Missiles is part of providing itself with that backstop. It is Turkey saying to Israel, NATO is standing behind us, don't think of picking a fight.

Increasingly, Turkey will be led to be the champion of the Palestinians, and consequently the opponent of Israel. That far more than any sideshow with Syria, is likely to determine future relations.

No comments: