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The United States, Turkey and Israel -- Slap and Tickle, or the Real Thing?

Author bio: 
Richard Cottrell

Make no mistake about it, the United States has cut the mooring lines to the Israeli state,  so long as it remains  in the hands of the current hard-line management. The present crisis in the Middle East is first and foremost about installing a new user-friendly management in Jerusalem, responsive to American pressure on the toxic contemporary issue of Palestinian sovereignty. The murders of Turkish citizens committed by Israeli commandos aboard the Gaza aid flotilla in May last year are the fuse for this crisis: they are not specifically the cause of it, since there are very much wider issues in play which ultimately lead to the future of ‘the new Ottomans’ in the Middle East.

When  ex-Defense Secretary Bill Gates berates Israel as an ‘ungrateful ally’ that is always free with the begging bowl but rarely to be seen when America calls for some reciprocal back up, we are in unexplored territory. Gates was of course massively over-egging the omelet with these harsh words to the National Security Committee. He skipped past the fact most of the atrocities committed by Israel involved American or American-licensed weapons paid for by taxpayer bucks. Nor did he say that the US has always given the Zionists unqualified backing no matter how dreadful their actions.

Gaza is a gulag. Everyone knows that. The deliberate persecution and starvation of men, women and children is a crime against humanity (as the Israelis, looking at their own experiences in that department, should surely appreciate).  So, when ex-Secretary Gates gets up on his hind legs to flail the Israelis as a bunch of miserable Artful Dodgers, I ask where Mr Gates has been for the past twenty or thirty years that he seemed never to notice this before.

What is happening in the Middle East is a perfect demonstration of American short-term self-interest. She desperately needs to win the super bowl over the Palestinian issue, but there is no way of doing that as long as the present obstinate Likudian blockheads who run Israel – Benyamin Netanyahu and his sidekick pit bull  terrier, the cantankerous and evil Avigdor Lieberman –  are holding all the aces.

America has decided that she doesn’t want to play Mr Bad Guy with the Palestinians one moment longer. She wants a new government in Jerusalem, probably run by the Two State convert and leader of the Opposition, Tzipi Livni. She is very close to the president Shimon Peres (who is in turn on kiss-and-hug terms with Ankara). If the Two State solution has to be imposed by the iron fist, then the only reservation in Washington is that the fist should not belong to the United States.

Enter the Turkish premier, Recip Tayyip Erdogan, boiling with rage and fury at Israel’s refusal to grovel, as she sees it, for the flotilla murders. Erdogan is the archetypal New Ottoman. His soft Islamic Justice and Development (AK) party have transformed Turkey into a humming example of modern capitalism. Her ratings actually rose during the first stage of the running global economic crisis. Lots of countries in the Middle East would like a dose of the same mixture. So Turkey essentially volunteers herself to sort out Gaza – and the Israelis

Erdogan is in a position of massive domestic strength. In the past any Turkish politician with a non-secular stripe did not last long under the icy gaze of the fervently anti-Islamic Turkish High Command.  Erdogan and Abdullah Gul, his lifetime friend and now president, have settled scores with the whisky generals (not least by exposing their fingerprints on a secret deep state conspiracy called Ergenekon). The AK people have just won their third election in a row, once again not far short of a landslide. The opposition is shattered and broken. As Churchill once said, if you can’t hum a good tune in politics, you’ve had it

Turkey’s preparations for the present crisis are meticulous and clearly put in place some time ago. An armada is presently gathering in the Eastern Mediterranean, led by five assault ships accompanied by smaller but well armed support craft. The fleet is covered by swarms of fighters based in Izmir and Konya, which between them can master 160+ warcraft, operating in round the clock wave formation  – a formidable deterrent even to Israel’s well known aerial combat skills.

The purpose of this maritime expedition is obviously to deter the Israeli naval presence in these waters and cover both a limited amphibious landing operation and a large drop by Turkish paratroopers, should that need arise, and if she should meet opposition.

I say ‘should’ with reservation because I suspect that Turkey might occupy Gaza, but not necessarily in contested warlike circumstances. (It brings to mind the UN endorsement of the Libyan no-fly mission performed by elements of NATO but clearly this operation would play another way altogether). The Egyptians may also back the exercise by sending ground troops through the Rafah porthole located between the Sinai and Gaza.   This intervention could occur even if the present Israeli junta collapses, because it will be essential, in the event of new government being formed in Jerusalem, to install a guarantor power to ensure there will be no backsliding on Palestinian sovereignty.

Whether this turns into a shooting war remains to be seen. If it does, it will be a clear sign that the leading players have wandered off-script.

Our focus switches to the huge – and in the western media, unreported – ‘Israeli Autumn’ gatherings of up to half a million pro-democracy, pro-Palestinian settlement demonstrators appearing in Israel’s  squares and public places virtually every day. This has all the look of the Gene Sharp chorus line of ‘color’ revolutions that generally precede some major political upset: Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, on the recent roll call.

I take this to mean the CIA is actively stirring civil discontent in Israel and that should worry the Likud gang quite a lot. Is it really conceivable Mossad put on the blindfolds, or that in the convoluted stews of plotting and scheming in the Moyen-Orient is in on the act?  At the moment we cannot tell.

Now we turn to Turkey’s real sense of mission.  This is no lackey state of the US, or NATO, as I have pointed out in previous blogs. We find clues however in Erdogan’s pronouncements that henceforth Turkey seeks a wider role throughout the Middle East. She is keen to see peaceful handovers in Iran and Syria. Should these countries slip into civil war, as Libya is about to do, the refugee overspill, and its costs, would assume frightful proportions.

Most of all we need to remember that most of the Middle East, excluding Egypt but including what is now Israel, fell under Ottoman rule until the end of WW2. There is the commonality of religion, a striking feature, even allowing for the Sunni v Shiite (aka Protestant v Catholic) schism. The United States has not had a happy baptism in Middle Eastern affairs. She is seen as a Crusader power, violent and monumentally uninformed on the practicalities and complications of life in these parts, whereas the Turks have been entrenched for centuries.

America’s attempts to bring Israel in from the cold (the land for peace overtures) were commendable, with important results.

Unfortunately these gains were wasted by the increasing intransigence and belligerence of kibbutz politics, the demonizing of the Palestinians, the blitzkriegs aimed at the harmless Lebanese and eventually the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Middle Easterners know this is about oil, not democracy, even as they are attracted to many American values.

I believe Recip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul are schooling Turks to prepare for a widening role in the region. This must be at the expense of Israel, in the sense that as the power shift moves towards Turkey, rather than the United States, it is Turkey that will ensure Israel’s right to exist (under new management). This will prove to be a revolution of profound consequences, if it comes about. Whether this is fully understood in Washington I cannot be sure, but I doubt it.

America, as always, is moving in a short term time frame. Those old Ottoman minds are accustomed to thinking in centuries.

Finally, I shall not be surprised if the United Stains abstains in the forthcoming (largely symbolic anyway) vote on Palestinian sovereignty at the UN.

Richard Cottrell is a writer, journalist and author. His latest book Gladio: NATO’s Dagger At The Heart of Europe: The Pentagon-Nazi-Mafia Terror Axis is shortly to appear from Progressive Press.