Barack Obama’s blocking tactics against US allies bent on military action are now focused on Ankara.
Deputy Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs Adm. James A. Winnefeld landed in Turkey Tuesday, October 23, shortly after his boss, the Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, flew out.
The same tactics worked in Jerusalem in the short term. A procession of high-powered generals and officials were in and out of Israel in the last two years to block an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities and keep America clear of involvement.
For now, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is tied down by the early election he has called for Jan. 22, 2013 and at loggerheads with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, intending to replace him after the poll with Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon, former IDF Chief of Staff who serves as Minister for Strategic Affairs.
Israel has switched to pre-election mode and hardly likely to go to war with the prime minister and defense minister in discord.
Washington is trying the method that was temporarily successful with Netanyahu on another American ally, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. It has the same objective, which is to hold him and his military and intelligence chiefs back from direct military action against Syria. The Obama administration is determined to ward off any Turkish steps with the potential for drawing the US into the Syrian conflict, whether in the days remaining for the US presidential election or even after Nov. 6.
Ankara bitter and frustrated by US restraints
Ankara’s bitterness over this treatment was exposed Monday, Oct. 22, in Hurriyet, a newspaper close to Erdogan, in exceptionally harsh terms.
An interview with the prominent academic Prof. Deniz ulke Anbogan of Ankara yielded a number of accusations against Washington, which are paraphrased here by DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources.
Turkey feels US intelligence is no longer to be trusted completely, notwithstanding its apparent willingness to help eliminate high-profile Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) figures;
Turkey suspects the US of ongoing secret support for the PKK ever since it invaded Iraq and is therefore less helpful than it could be in helping Turkey fight the Kurdish separatists;
The Turkish army and intelligence accuse the US military in Iraq between 2003-2011 of establishing the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iran. America is perceived in Ankara as possibly willing to divide Turkey too.
Although the administration keeps the PKK on its list of terrorist organizations, Washington appears to sympathize with what it conceives of as the Kurdish group’s struggle for freedom.
This is a long way from Turkey’s expectations of the United States.
The Turkish professor adds: “If it were up to me, I would not trust US intelligence either.”
Erdogan fears Obama’s Kurdish policies
Some of Ankara’s suspicion and frustration is directed against US Ambassador to Ankara Francis Ricciardone for saying, “We don’t see a possibility of war between Syria and Turkey.”
There is a sense that “America has thrown us under the Middle East bus” with regard to Syria, while promoting a plan for enclosing Turkey in the vise of an independent Kurdistan, our sources report.
It is feared in the Turkish capital that Turkey’s own Kurds will not be able to resist lopping off their region and attaching it to the new entity.
The Americans are seen envisaging the partitioning of Turkey in the same way as they treated Iraq in the past decade.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is preoccupied in laying diplomatic bricks for a structure that will leave the US no escape from joining military action by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar – regardless of whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney is elected in November.
He has been meeting Western figures visiting Ankara and complaining to them about the Obama administration’s “total uselessness” in the Syrian crisis. The minister denigrates Obama for his refusal to help the Syria rebels – even by letting them have anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles or covering a part of the fighters’ monthly paychecks.
Davutoglu explains that by US intervention, Turkey is not thinking about the Libyan pattern of “leading from behind,” but rather the deployment of US air and naval forces for protecting safe havens inside Syria and imposing a no-fly zone against Syrian war planes and civilian air traffic.
Ankara may make do with Israel’s “regret” instead of apology
So eager is Ankara to rope the US into military action against Bashar Assad that, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Middle East sources, the Erdogan government is secretly hinting at a willingness to relax its rigid conditions for burying the hatchet with Israel.
Relations have been frozen since May 2011 when an Israeli naval raid on the Turkish Mavi Marmara sailing to break the Gaza blockade left nine Turks dead.
The Obama administration is keen on its two leading allies in the region, Turkey and Israel, ending their quarrel and working together. Ankara hopes that by restoring the historic diplomatic and military ties with Jerusalem, Washington will be persuaded to satisfy Turkey’s demand for a proactive US military role in Syria.
Davutoglu has sent secret messages to Jerusalem suggesting that an expression of “regret” could take the place of an Israeli apology.
Taking encouragement from those messages, the former Israeli ambassador to Turkey Pinhas Avivi who serves today as Foreign Ministry political director, suggested this week that Turkish and Israeli officials get together to discuss the Syrian crisis.
He was turned down on the spot by Ankara.
Turkey’s trade route through Israel may be key to rapprochement
Still, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources say, even this negative exchange counted as the first public manifestation that a secret process of rapprochement is ongoing between the two governments.
By citing Syria as a subject of discussion, Israel was letting Turkey know that this issue was acceptable as a marker for the resumption of strategic and military relations.
In another sphere, Turkey has been glad to run ahead, with steps to promote its exports.
After Syrian air space, overland and sea routes were closed to Turkish exports destined for Persian Gulf markets, Ankara short of a direct route turned to Israel and requested the use of Haifa port.
On the quiet therefore, exported Turkish goods have been making their way by sea and land across a route from Haifa docks, where the containers are unloaded from Turkish merchant vessels and transported overland through Israeli highways to Jordan.
This short cut to Turkey’s foreign trade markets may also rev up the process of Turkish-Israeli reconciliation and speed it past the careful language used by Ankara and Jerusalem.