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Israel Strengthens Strategic Military Alliance With Turkey

Israel Strengthens Strategic Military Alliance With Turkey

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Published by: thekingfisher1 on Aug 18, 2009
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Israel strengthens strategic military alliance with Turkey - But the goal is to penetrate the ...
1294 words25 June 2001Daily Star DSTAR English(c) 2001 THE DAILY STAR, BEIRUT, LEBANON.Israel strengthens strategic military alliance with Turkey - But the goal is to penetrate the former Sovietrepublics.Ed BlancheSpecial to The Daily Star The military exercises now being conducted by the Israeli, Turkish and US air forces in central Turkey,the first such aerial maneuvers ever held by the three states, demonstrate the extent to which thealliance between Israel and Turkey is constantly being strengthened and, as we shall see, moving intothe Central Asian republics whose energy resources have become the great geostrategic prize of thenew century.The three countries have conducted three modest naval exercises in the eastern Mediterranean sincethey signed a series of military cooperation agreements starting in 1996, and Israeli and Turkish F-16 pilots have trained in each others' air space.But the air exercise, code-named Anatolian Eagle, is the biggest joint operation they have carried out sofar, indicating that more ambitious maneuvers can be expected.The Turkish Air Force participated with 46 aircraft, Israel with 10 F-16s, two tanker aircraft and severalhelicopters, the US with six F-16s. All deployed at the Konya air base 250 kilometers south of Ankara,and operated in a new training zone covering 20,000 square kilometers east of the city of Konya.Anatolian Eagle is expected to become an annual event, open to NATO air forces as well. None of this is good news for Iran, Iraq or Syria, the regional states that feel threatened most by theTurkish-Israeli alliance, which they see as a US-inspired attempt to encircle them.Turkey borders all three states. Like Israel, it views all three with deep suspicion, particularly Tehran'slong-range Shehab missile program and Baghdad's clandestine efforts to develop weapons of massdestruction. Mutual concern about Islamic fundamentalism is another issue that binds these two non-Arab states, which have the most powerful military forces in the region.Although their concord is not a military alliance in the traditional sense - there is no knowncommitment to mutual defense or to participate in each other's war - the entente between these two USallies clearly carries immense weight in an unstable region and has altered the Middle East's balance of  power by enhancing both states' regional status and deterrent capabilities.Both countries insist that their relationship is not intended to threaten any other states. But it is clear that any regional government, or group, would need to think twice about going up against such aformidable partnership. Israel's former defense minister, Yitzhak Mordechai, made that very clear whenhe declared in 1998: "When we lock hands we form a powerful fist - our relationship is a strategicone."Ankara's military posturing on Syria's border in 1998 is a case in point. It forced Damascus, pinioned between Turkey and Israel, to abandon its longtime support for the separatists of Abdullah Ocalan'sKurdish Workers' Party and eventually led to Ocalan's capture in Kenya in February 1999 (some say
 
with the help of Israeli intelligence). Syria lost its leverage with Turkey in its dispute over theEuphrates, while Ankara was able to tighten its stranglehold over the supply of water to both Syria andIraq.When the Greek Cypriots moved to deploy long-rangeS-300 anti-aircraft missiles in their part of the divided island, the threat of military action by Turkeystopped them cold in December 1998. Turkish pilots were reported to have trained in the Negev Desertfor missions to take out the missile sites, a technique the Israelis had developed with devastating effectagainst the Syrians in the Bekaa in 1982.As Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, pointed out in a recent paper,Israeli combat aircraft flying in Turkish airspace near the Iraqi and Iranian borders enhances Israelideterrence against missile attacks from these countries - increasingly the greatest threat perceived bythe Israelis. "The chances of the Israeli Air Force dealing effectively with such weapons are better when the distances involved in air strikes are smaller."Indeed, he noted, during the Iraqi crisis of February 1998, "the Turkish ambassador to the United Statesstated that Turkey would consider allowing Israel to use Turkish airspace for retaliation should Iraqlaunch missile attacks on Israel."The Israeli Air Force's custom-built F-15I long-range strike aircraft, acquired for just such operations,would be far more effective if they could use Turkish air bases or airspace as by shortening the distanceto their targets they would be able to carry more devastating weapons loads.Allowing Israel's new German-built Dolphin submarines - possibly armed with long-range surface-to-surface missiles, possibly tipped with nuclear warheads - to use Turkish ports and territorial waters intime of crisis would also bolster Israel's strategic reach and deterrent power. There have long beensuspicions as well that the Israelis have installed early warning and surveillance facilities on Turkey's borders with Iran and Iraq.But there is another, less appreciated aspect to the Turkish-Israeli alliance and the US strategy in theregion that it bolsters: Israel's penetration of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, where Turkeyis highly active among the largely Turkic-speaking peoples of that region in competing for influencewith Russia and Iran, and to a lesser extent Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.The collapse of the Soviet Union meant that Central Asia became a natural geographic and geopoliticalextension of the Middle East. When Afghanistan and Pakistan are included, this new Middle Eastconstitutes a crescent of 450 million people, overwhelmingly Muslim, running from Mauritinia andMorocco to Kazakhstan.For Israel, it became imperative to ensure that the newly independent Muslim republics, some withnuclear weapons, were not drawn into Iran's orbit or became aligned with Arab states. Turkey, of course, had its own imperatives for expanding its influence eastward. The Americans, for their part,sought control of the republic's oil and gas wealth to cut out Russia and Iran - but also to help protectIsrael.The Jewish lobby in the US, embracing Israel's widening strategic interests, was extremely active - andsuccessful - in pressuring Bill Clinton's administration to support an oil pipeline from Azerbaijan'sBaku oilfields and others in Khazakstan to Ceyhan on Turkey's Mediterranean coast, which wouldensure Israel's energy requirements while ensuring multiple sources of energy for the US well into thiscentury. Among advocates of the 2,000-kilometer, $3 billion pipeline was one Roger Tamraz, thefugitive Lebanese banker.The US is also keen to develop military ties with the Central Asian states and possibly even establish a

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