Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan is clearly spoiling for more trouble with Israel. This is manifested by the steps which are revealed here by debkafile's military and intelligence sources. The peaceful outcome of the Rachel Corrie incident Saturday, June 5, and Israel's efforts to keep the crisis under control have had no effect on his determination to raise rather than de-escalate Turkish-Israeli friction.
Friday, Erdogan made sure his close aides leaked word to the media that he was preparing a large wave of flotillas to challenge Israel's blockade, to be escorted next time by armed Turkish warships with himself possibly on board.
To this, our sources add:
1. The prime minister's office in Ankara is forking out millions of dollars to the IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi), the Istanbul-based terrorist group linked to al Qaeda and Hamas, with orders to purchase 8-10 large ships for a formidable fleet to challenge the Israeli Navy and its enforcement of the 20-mile blockade of the Gaza Strip.
This is the second time he is recruiting the IHH terrorists who assaulted Israeli commandos boarding the Mavi Marmara on May 31, leaving nine people dead and 45 injured in consequence.
The Washington Post Sunday called for the Erdogan's government's ties to the IHH to be one focus of any international investigation into the Marmara incident, pointing to its support for Hamas, which the United States has named as a terrorist entity. The paper called foreign minister Ahmet Davutogolu's statement that the Israeli attack "is like 9/11 for Turkey" obscene.
2. Last week, ahead of the Marmara incident, Erdogan began deploying at the Turkish end of Cyprus air, naval and marine units, holding them ready to combat Israeli takeovers of Gaza-bound vessels. He was only restrained from sending them into action by the last-minute intervention of President Barack Obama's NSA James Jones and President Nicolas Sarkozy's chef de bureau who, according to debkafile's Washington and Paris sources, threatened him with isolation in NATO and Europe if he went ahead.
Saturday, the Turkish leader had his aides leak to the media that he was seriously thinking of leading the next flotilla in person to dramatize his confrontation with Israel.
3. At home, the Turkish prime minister shored up his intelligence ranks ahead of his planned showdown with Israel, replacing professional directors for the first time in modern Turkish history with civilians, radical Muslims close to him personally.
debkafile names them for the first time here as Hakan Fidan, the former head of TIKA, the Turkish International & Development Agency, who is appointed head of the Central Turkish Intelligence Agency – MIT, the equivalent of the Israel Mossad; and Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler, who is the new Undersecretary for Public Order and Security, who in fact directs Turkey's special operations against terrorists.
By these appointments, the Turkish prime minister put paid to any lingering hopes still cherished by some circles in Israel of preserving the long-held back channels to Ankara.
And finally, Turkey's state prosecutors are instructed to prepare charges of murder and piracy on the high seas against Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, defense minister Ehud Barak and chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazy.