Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Don't Worry About Turkey

UPDATE: Turkey to Normalize Gaza Ties if Naval Blockade Ends.
The Confused Sheikh:1, Turkish Brinkmanship:0.

But I would add that a) This is the opening Turkish bargaining position, not likely to be the final agreement which likely will include some easing on restrictions but not a total abandonment of the siege, and b) Someone could still mess up and cause Turkey to reinstate the threat of escorting a new flotilla.


According to news reports, Turkey has
threatened to provide a Turkish naval escort for the next round of Gaza flotilla ships. This is a classic case of cold-war style brinkmanship, reminiscent of the Soviet push towards the U.S. naval blockade in Cuba. And while the threat itself is dangerous, the chance of a follow through is relatively small.

Firstly, if Turkey enters the blockade it would be the penetration of Turkish ships into the sovereign territory of another state. This is a universally recognized act of war. Starting a war with Israel would undermine the long-term goal of Turkey's own foreign policy. This goal is to be a regional hegemon and a mediator in the Middle East, not to needlessly fight the strongest army in the region.

Secondly, the Turkish population is not as pro-Islamic as the current government is. With an active war against the PKK in the south, its unlikely that the majority of the Turkish population would support a long-term conflict with Israel over support for Hamas.

In addition, Turkey and the U.S. have recently been aligned on Iraq. Despite the rather cocky statement from Turkish FM Davutoglu, the U.S. and Turkey have a mutual interest in stability throughout the Middle East. This is expressly manifested in Turkey's "0 Problems on all Borders" foreign policy strategy. A conflict with Israel would needlessly cause tension between an increasingly inward-looking U.S. and Turkey.

Most likely, the threat to escort a new flotilla is a bargaining chip that Turkey will use to ensure its nationals are returned to Turkish soil, an investigation of the raid is conducted, and parts of the Gaza siege are lifted.

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