It doesn’t take a skilled diplomat to recognize what happens when America retreats from the burdens and sacrifices of global leadership as it is now doing in the Middle East. Someone else steps in. Today, it’s Turkey.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is now aiming at a return to the days of the Ottoman empire.
The story didn’t capture the headlines when Iran announced it had uncovered a spy ring of 15 operatives working for Israel. In October, The Washington Post released a story that indicated Turkey had leaked the identity of the spies. While not being discussed in the USA, the story amounts to the worst act of betrayal imaginable.
For nearly 55 years, Israel and Turkey were strategic allies. Israeli Military Intelligence, Mossad, and Shin Bet as well as their Turkish counterparts worked in a harmonious tight relationship. Mossad officials with their spy equipment entered and left Turkey without going through border procedures. During the era of the Shah of Iran, Israel, Turkey and Iran monitored the entire area and exchanged information. When the Shah fell, Iran pulled out, but Turkey has long been a base for Mossad agents to operate against Iran.
The current betrayal of Israeli agents has not only blown up this relationship, but amounted to an international act of aggression. Unquestionably, Turkey received the names of those agents from Mossad itself. What in the world is going on?
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist Party have been looking at Iran with shifting eyes. Behind the scenes the powerful head of Turkey’s intelligence system, Hakan Fidan recently cancelled special arrangements between his agency and Israel. Little doubt remains that Fidan and Erdogan have engineered these efforts. Fidan is known to be close to the Iranians. Some Israeli’s view Fidan as Iran’s “station chief” in Ankara.
However, there is more to the story. Hakan Fidan is the architect of aTurkish regional security strategy that they hope will turn Tayyip Erdogan into the new sultan of a modern-day Ottoman empire and allow him to become the champion of the Sunnis in the Middle East. In order to accomplish this goal, Turkey is now playing its cards carefully as the Syrian war continues. Iran’s fate in the nuclear discussions could directly affect Erdogan’s dreams of power and control. You can bet Turkey is maneuvering in all of these issues.
The bottom line is that Israel has now turned into a liability as Turkey slides toward Iran. You don’t have to study a map long to recognize that an alliance between Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey would cut off Israel and Saudi Arabia. The idea would have sounded preposterous several years ago. Today it is startling!
But Turkey is already starting to pay a price for the betrayal. Who could ever trust a country that would betray its allies intelligence to gain political advantage and opportunity. Turkey has made itself into a pariah.