As anyone who has set eyes on a newspaper already knows, Turkey has expelled the Israeli ambassador and halted joint military actions. Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times report:
Turkey said Friday that it was downgrading its diplomatic and military ties with Israel and expelling its ambassador in a display of anger at Israel’s refusal to apologize for a deadly commando raid last year on a Turkish ship bound forGaza.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey would reduce its diplomatic representation in Israel to the level of second secretary — one of the lowest diplomatic ranks — and had ordered Israel’s ambassador, Gabby Levy, to leave Turkey by Wednesday. The move stopped short of a complete breach in diplomatic relations but nonetheless seemed likely to deepen the already serious alienation between the countries and to further isolate Israel in the region as Arab Spring revolts threaten to undermine other previously stable relationships there.
“All military agreements have been suspended,” Mr. Davutoglu said but added that relations could return to normal if Israel apologized for the killings of nine people on board the ship and lifted its embargo on Gaza — demands Israel has consistently rejected…
But also interesting is a related bit of news that on the same day Turkey announced it would install a radar system designed by the United States as part of a new NATO shield against a missile attack in Europe. (click here) The main threat NATO has in mind is Iran, which has been beefing up its missile capabilities. Despite insisting its nuclear program is peaceful, Iran has recently bragged about its increased ability to produce enriched uranium, reported advances in its missile technology, and unveiled underground silos that would make its missiles less vulnerable to attack.
Turkey’s action is notable because despite its friendly overtures to Iran in recent years, the acceptance of the missile shield means that Turkey is no longer so sanguine about Iranian intentions. It also reflects tensions over Syria and the fact that in the region Iran and Turkey are competitors for power, influence, markets, and resources. Iran continues to support the Syrian regime, while Turkey has withdrawn its support.
The NY Times article linked above made an interesting observation about the fact that Turkey booted out the Israeli ambassador and announced the missile shield on the same day. Breaking military ties with Israel seems to have solved a problem that had kept Turkey from fully supporting the missile shield: the need to share sensitive radar information with Israel. No military ties, no sharing, no problem. Now why would that have been a problem? What information would Turkey have that it didn’t want to share with Israel?