In the continuing fallout from Israel’s attack on the Gaza rescue ship Mavi Marmara a couple of years ago, the US Congress has cancelled an agreement to sell Predator drones to its NATO ally Turkey.
When Israel attacked the Mavi Marmara in international waters and assassinated several Turkish citizens, it set off a flurry of angry reactions from Turkish authorities, and scuttled the increasing friendship between the two countries. Not only did plans for Turkey to buy drones from Israel collapse, but there were numerous other diplomatic conflicts.
At about that time the identies of 10 agents working for Israeli Mossad were claimed to be revealed to Iran, allegedly by the head of a Turkish intelligence agency. Turkish officials claim that the allegation was simply ‘black propaganda’ by Israel.
An article in Today’s Zaman suggests that no action was taken by the US and Israel at the time because Turkey’s cooperation was needed gathering intelligence in Syria. With the need to spy on Syria lessened, the US was free to retaliate against Turkey on behalf of Israel.
Today’s Zaman also suggests that the move by Washington was in retaliation for Turkey buying long range missiles from a Chinese arms company, instead of Russian, American or European bidders.
It may also be retaliation for Turkey’s broader rejection of Israel’s use of Turkish airspace, and the probability that it is curtailing its cooperation with Israel’s efforts to infiltrate Iran via the Turkish border areas.
Ironically the US supplies Turkey with a great deal of surveillance in parts of eastern Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, specifically aimed at the PKK. This latest move appears to be an attempt to limit control of surveillance by Turkey as well as force Turkey to return to its policy of cooperating with Israel with respect to Iran, and purchasing arms from it. The move wasn’t totally a surprise, it was rumoured last year in Turkey, and in the United States.
Unless Turkey flinches, the cancellation would ironically appear to be a good thing for peace in the region. Turkey has been making inroads to solving its conflict with the PKK, so has less need for drones to survey and attack rebel fighters. And the US reaction may simply harden Turkey in its resolve not to be used by Israel to threaten or actually attack Iran. The NATO alliance, which is less about mutual aid and more about foreign intervention, has been weakened yet again. Probably not what the US congress wanted, but a plus for the world at large.