The Shock-Waves May Roll over US-NATO Mediterranean, Black Sea Holdings
The ripples thrown up by the breakdown of the Turkey-Israeli military and intelligence alliance, long a Western security fixture in key regions of the world, are blowing up into a storm that could swamp American, European and NATO interests in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and beyond.
Not only is Turkish Prime Minister RecepTayep Erdogan proving unstoppable in his abrupt turn from West to East, but he has invited the leader of the Lebanese Hizballah, Iran's fiery proxy Hassan Nasrallah, for a red carpet welcome in Ankara.
This visit – reported Thursday, June 17, to be imminent – would make Turkey the first NATO member to open its arms to – and establish direct relations with – an entity classified by the United Nations as a terrorist organization with umpteen violations of UN resolutions to its name.
Under the direct command and protection of the dread al Qods Brigades of Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), Hizballah has grown into the most powerful militia in the Middle East with clandestine branches and active hit teams in many parts of the world.
Nasrallah's invitation to Ankara was not only a slap in the face for Israel, whose leaders up to three weeks ago still believed they could preserve their military and intelligence ties with Erdogan's Turkey, but one in the eye for the Obama administration too and its chosen policies for Iran and Syria.
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It would be the second time this month that Erdogan had sabotaged a Washington move against Tehran. The first time he partnered Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in an enriched uranium deal with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for pre-empting UN Security Council sanctions.
On Wednesday, June 16, Erdogan called the Turkish Defense Industry Implementation Committee – SSIK for a meeting in Ankara to shelve 16 bilateral military and intelligence agreements with Israel.
All of these contracts were designed to upgrade and modernize the Turkish armed forces in many areas, including sales of advanced interceptor missiles, battle tanks, missile ships, electronic warfare and surveillance equipment, unmanned aircraft, upgrades of fighter jets and air-to-air missiles – services and items worth a total of $5-7 billion.
Still in need of these systems and services, Ankara will now turn to Moscow, which is eager to step into Israel's shoes – for a price. Wednesday, June 15 Rosoboronexport, Russia's arms exporters, announced their bid in a Turkish tender for air defense missile systems with an offer of long-range S-300 and S-400 systems, the equivalent of American Patriot missile interceptors.
Moscow's price tag will undoubtedly include strategic assets in the Caucasus and Black Sea regions, as well as well as profitable deals in petroleum and gas, in return for selling Ankara top-of-the-line hardware of which its armed forces stand in immediate need.
Stopping NATO secrets from leaking to Ankara – and beyond
Erdogan knows that to sustain his alliance with Iran and its Middle East allies, he must promise them his army, air force and navy can protect them against an Israeli attack coming from the direction of Turkey.
Wednesday, June 16, Ankara revoked a row of contracts with Israel including one allowing the Israeli Air Force to access Turkish air space. With Russian S-300 and S-400 interceptor missiles, Turkey will be able to intercept any Israeli spy planes and bombers flying overhead on their way to attack its new allies in Tehran, Damascus and Beirut.
Israel's senior military and intelligence planners arrived in Washington this week, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military, intelligence and Washington sources report. They are urgently discussing with their American opposite numbers ways to stop NATO's intelligence secrets reaching Ankara, especially confidential data relating to terrorism, Iran, Syria, Hizballah, and security updates on the countries in the Mediterranean basin, including southern Europe and North Africa.
The Israelis warned US officials that their military and intelligence exchanges with Turkey, reduced now to low level, will soon be cut off altogether and they have begun gearing up to reclassify Turkey from Israel's sole Middle East ally to an intelligence target.
Knowing exactly where he stands in this respect, Hizballah's Hassan Nasrallah has armored himself with a unique three-tiered protective system which is manned by hand-picked guards and Iranian agents deployed in Beirut for that purpose.
Nasrallah's bunker-to-bunker safety net
To escape the fate of Hizballah's special security commander, Imad Mughniyeh, who was assassinated in an upscale neighborhood of Damascus on Feb. 15, 2008, Nasrallah lives in a bunker under the Shiite suburb of Beirut. For four years, since his last war against Israel, he has addressed his Shiite followers from a large video screen and never traveled outside the city or been seen in public – except for one time.
On February 25, he was summoned to Damascus to share an epic occasion with his two sponsors, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian president Bashar Assad, at which all three ceremonially signed a military pact.
The three big security services of Iran, Syria and Hizballah stood on high alert to guarantee Nasrallah's safety until he returned to his Beirut hideout.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's counter-terror sources disclose that on Thursday, June 17, when this issue went to press, the same three Middle East agencies – plus the Turkish MIT – were alerted to secure the Hizballah leader's second foreign trip in four years and make sure he reaches his date with the Turkish prime minister and returns safely to his Beirut bunker.
The arrangements were made by the Turkish MIT spy agency's director, Hakan Fidan, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources reveal. He arrived in Beirut earlier this week with personal guarantees for Nasrallah's safety from the Turkish prime minister.
An Erdogan loyalist, Hakan Fidan was appointed to his post as recently as the end of May.
In Beirut, he turned over various means of travel to Ankara with the Hizballah leader. One suggestion was for Nasrallah to be travel in one of three Turkish military jets flying to Beirut to pick him up – too many for the Israeli Air Force to risk challenging without provoking a full-blown war.
Another proposal was for him to drive overland from Lebanon to Syria and on to Turkey, with Prime Minister Erdogan greeting him at the Turkish-Syrian border.
According to some intelligence sources in Beirut and Damascus, the Hizballah chief secretly left Beirut some days ago and could turn up in Ankara at any moment.