Which Side Will Ankara Be On?

Article Summary
Turkey considers its alliances as its sphere of influence shrinks in an ever-tumultuous Middle East, reports Muharrem Sarikaya.

Israeli planes have entered Syria and attacked Hezbollah targets. At this point, more than what was the target, the question asked is how it was hit.

A short time ago, Russia had said Syria was under its protection. But the defense system that hit the Turkish jet did not operate against Israeli planes. Moscow, who only a few days ago hosted the head of the Israeli military intelligence, did not go beyond a diplomatic reaction.

Tehran, who had declared that any attack against Syria would be considered an attack against Iran, did not go beyond issuing a threat. Instead Iran continued hunting down Azeri spies.

Let us backtrack to a few days before the Israeli attack. Mehmet Ali Okur of Ankara Strategic Institute, who follows the region closely and had even predicted an Israeli attack a few days before it happened, said something interesting: "The U.S. made a deal with Russia and Israel. It is backed by some Gulf countries, led by Qatar, whereby a model that excludes Turkey’s allies is taking shape.”

As an example, he cited Washington’s recent dealings with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who was elected with the support of the Muslim Brotherhood. He also referenced Washington’s disowning of Moaz al-Khatib, the leader of the Syrian opposition forces, who was initially supported by Hillary Clinton. The U.S. believes that the Free Syrian Army (FSA), supported by Turkey, has links with al-Qaeda and Hezbollah. The extremist group, Jabhat al-Nusra, is seen in the same trenches fighting along side the FSA. At a recent meeting in Antalya, the U.S. asked opposition commanders to sever their ties with these Islamist groups. They failed to do so and the U.S. now treats them as being from one single entity. This is why the U.S. is preparing a new structure.”

Okur then emphasized another point: “Israel, while opening the way to a new process by hitting Syria, is also putting pressure on Assad to sit down at the negotiating table. Israel’s message to Damascus and Tehran is, ‘If I can hit you, then someone else can come and hit you too and there is nothing you can do about it.’”

When I asked Okur what would be Ankara’s position should there be a war between Iran and Israel, he replied: ‘’Of course we will stand with the U.S., Israel and the EU but that will create internal problems. Also, Turkey’s sphere of influence in the region is shrinking.”

Mitat Celikpala, who specializes in Russian and Caucasian affairs, said Azeri-Iranian tension has assumed new dimensions. For some time now, Iran has been hunting down "Azeri spies." Celikpala said Iran believes it will be attacked via Azerbaijan. That is why it has been hunting down Azeris on charges of spying for the U.S. Azerbaijan is now retaliating in kind. Celikpala believes Iran wouldn’t dare to enter into a clash because of Syria.

As with the weather, the region is warming up again.

Found in: us involvement in the middle east, us, turkey, russian

Cookies help us deliver our services. By using them you accept our use of cookies. Learn more... X