Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ceren - Israel-Cyprus Military Exercises Show Turkey is Increasingly Isolated

Omri Ceren
27 October '11

More evidence that Turkey’s neo-Ottoman campaign to isolate Israel is backfiring badly:

Cypriot media outlets reported last week that Israel was conducting Air Force exercises with its Greek Cypriot counterpart over the Mediterranean and Greek island. The exercise is being seen by some reports as a “message to Turkey,” which has repeatedly threatened both Israel and Cyprus over deep-sea drilling in the Mediterranean. Greek Daily Phileleftheros published a document detailing the Israeli-Cypriot exercise, which included mid-air refuelling of fighter jets and quick touchdown landings by Israel Air Force combat helicopters in Cyprus.

The exercises are particularly noteworthy in light of a rumored incident over Cypriot airspace, where Israeli and Turkish planes may or may not have almost had an “aerial encounter.” If there are to be incidents in the area as American influence precipitously declines, the signal is presumably being sent–Cyprus and Israel will be on one side and Turkey will be on the other. Israel and Cyprus’s newly forged ties are in line with recent moves made by Athens and Sofia to solidify their mutual defense interests with Israel.

In the Arab and Muslim world, Turkey finds itself at odds with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood over democratization, distanced from Iran over missile defense, and alienated from Syria over the Arab Spring. With Russia also alarmed at Turkey’s moves against energy exploration, seemingly the only reliable ally Erdogan has left is President Obama.

Per reports, “by all accounts Mr. Obama sees Erodgan as a constructive partner, speaks with him frequently by phone and seeks his views on the region.” Obama is supplying Turkey with F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Predators, and Super Cobra helicopters. Those assets contain technology that Turkey seems increasingly predisposed to transfer to our enemies, reverse engineer for its own uses, and turn against Israel. So at least they’ll have plenty of U.S. technology to play with, even as the Middle East and Europe turn against them.

None of which has stopped Erdogan’s shills in the media and the foreign policy community from celebrating his oh-so-delicate regional diplomacy.

As a small example, Anthony Shadid of the New York Times is desperately trying to peddle “analysis” to the effect that Erdogan is, despite all outward appearances, popular in the Middle East. Given the mountain of evidence showing the exact opposite, one almost wonders whether Shadid’s private opinion – “that Israel’s foreign policy is myopic and it is the most short-sighted state in the region” – is a bit of wishful thinking that’s clouding his journalistic objectivity.

Shadid is better known for his journalism-cum-agitprop dispatches during Lebanon II (my favorite example of his Hezbollah propagandizing is here, and CAMERA debunked him here). These days he can’t seem to get over how awesome Erdogan is, with content typical of vapid paint-by-numbers media pseudo-sophistication but a style all his own.

In May, under the headline “Leader Transcends Complex Politics of Turkey,” Shadid declared that Turkey under Erdogan was “emerging as a decisive power… building relationships with Iran and Arab neighbors at the expense of Israel.” A few months later, under the headline “In Riddle of Mideast Upheaval, Turkey Offers Itself as an Answer,” Shadid offered that while “no one is ready to declare a Pax Turkana in the Middle East” just yet, “officials of an assertive, occasionally brash Turkey have offered a vision” for the Middle East’s future.

Back in the real world, of course, Turkey ended up on the wrong side of just about everyone in the region. Which isn’t to say Turkey won’t manage to become a regional hegemon. It’s only to emphasize if they do so it will be because of the gunboats and helicopters we gave them, not through Erdogan’s vaunted soft power. Meanwhile, Shadid and like-minded foreign policy reporters will keep peddling the tale of oh-so-delicate Turkish diplomacy and oh-so-pervasive Israeli isolation – the better to lull a quiescent West into telling itself that Everything Is OK – even as evidence piles up that the region is terrified of Turkish ascendency.

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