One country is emerging as a key player in the regional
reactions to the Israeli flotilla raid: Turkey. As
Israel's most important Muslim ally, the only Middle East member of the
NATO security pact, and a current non-permanent member of the United
Nations Security Council, Turkey is matched only by the U.S. in its
importance to the international proceedings. Turks also played a key
role in the flotilla itself, which was heavily funded by Turkish money
and filled with Turkish activists. Turkey has suggested it may send its
navy to escort a future convoy to Gaza. The backlash has also been among
the strongest in Turkey, where thousands of demonstrators initially
gathered to protest the Israeli raid. Here's Turkey's role and why it
- Gives Turkey Excuse to Break From Israel
Stratfor's George Friedman writes,
"The incident also wrecks Israeli relations with Turkey, historically an
Israeli ally in the Muslim world with longstanding military cooperation
with Israel. The [conservative and religious] Turkish government
undoubtedly has wanted to move away from this relationship, but it faced
resistance within the Turkish military and among secularists. The new
Israeli action makes a break with Israel easy, and indeed almost
necessary for Ankara."
- Turkey Deliberately Provoking Israel?
Mother Jones' Kevin Drum sighs, "it almost
seems as if Turkey was deliberately trying to provoke an incident that
would justify cutting off relations with Israel. After all, the Israeli
commando raid may have turned out more deadly than anyone expected, but
something like it was always probable and the Turkish government surely
- Greater Rival to Israel Than Iran The
Washington Post's David Ignatius appraises the events: "Once Israel's most important regional ally, Turkey now seeks to
challenge Israel's hegemony as the local superpower. Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a Muslim populist with a charismatic message: We
won't let Israel push us around. Where Iran's president, Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, is often a buffoon, Erdogan is a genuinely tough if erratic
- Could Become New U.S. Rival In Middle East
Foreign Policy's Steven Cook warns, "It is hard
to admit, but after six decades of strategic cooperation, Turkey and the
United States are becoming strategic competitors -- especially in the
Middle East." If the Israel-Turkey alliance falls apart, and the U.S.
continues to back Israel, then it will lose Turkey's crucial support in
the region. Turning this essential ally into an enemy could dramatically
hinder U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
Worst-Case Scenario: Turkey Invokes NATO Charter Politics Daily's Paul Wachter cautions that Turkey could invoke Article V
of the NATO charter, which states that an attack on one member nation is
an attack on all. This means that if Turkey escorts another flotilla,
and Israel again raids it, every NATO member--including the U.S.--would
have to choose between joining against Israel or functionally ending the
- Turkish Group Behind the Flotilla The New
York Times' Sabrina Tavernase reports
on the Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), a Turkish group that declared "We are
very thankful to the Israeli authorities," for raiding their flotilla.
"The group brought large boats and millions of dollars in donations to a
cause that had struggled to meet its objectives. Particularly galling
to Israel is the fact that the group comes from Turkey, an ally, but one
whose relations with Israel have become increasingly strained."
The Group Violent? Tavernase reports, "The
organization was founded in the early 1990s, first as a charity for the
poor in Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, and later for Bosnian war
victims. It now runs charity and relief work in more than 100 countries
... Israeli authorities say I.H.H. bolsters Hamas, which runs Gaza and
which they see as doctrinally committed to destroying the state of
Israel. It also charges that the group has links to Al Qaeda and has
bought weapons, charges the group denies." Indian journalist Nitin
Pai points out, "As you guys know, even [Pakistani Taliban front
group] Jamaat-ud-Dawa is a charitable organisation. Scepticism about the
Turkish 'charity' is warranted."
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