An interesting article in today’s Hurriyet Daily brings to our attention a very different angle to the Israel-Iran nuclear crisis, outside of the American and other international aspects: the condundrum in which Turkey will find itself if Israel carries out a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The author, Cenk Sidar, gives some general background to the crisis and then analyses Israel’s options and the basis for its considerations, and the complications for Turkey that arise out of the situation. (All emphases are mine).
While experts estimate Iran would need at least two years to develop a warhead that could be used with a missile, Iran has been expanding its nuclear complex near Qom to put key facilities deeper underground, making it difficult for Israeli forces to pinpoint targets. Within a few months, it is believed, Israeli military capabilities will not be sufficient to destroy the facilities; at that point, Israel would need the assistance of the US military to successfully carry out the intended mission. If the attack were to take place today, Iran’s reaction would likely be limited. It does not have adequate military capability to hit Israeli cities, and its decreasing economic powers suggest that using proxies will be more difficult. Embroiled in civil war, Syria would not be able to come to its ally’s aid. While Iran’s response will certainly be asymmetrical through the use of Hezbollah and Hamas, those groups have limited military capability.
Also, the current tide of events in the Middle East and further abroad has removed geopolitical barriers to an Israeli strike. Regional powers such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia are deeply involved in the Syrian crisis, and they don’t have enough political capital to oppose or intervene. The level of self-confidence reflected in the statements of Turkish officials does not match the country’s actual political leverage in the region, as has been demonstrated time and time again in the past couple of months. A few years ago, Turkey had the great potential to broker a deal, but it lost its chance as its relations with Israel became strained. [...] Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbors policy” has continued to crumble, as its relations with Iran and Syria are even worse than they were 10 years ago. As it intervenes in the Syrian conflict and supports Sunni groups, Turkey has seen an increasing level of terrorism at home and threats coming both from Tehran and Damascus. If an attack happens, Turkish officials will have to work with Israel, since other options are not on the table. Also, Turkey is hosting a NATO radar system that could potentially be put to use if Israel launches a strike. An Israeli attack on Iran would put the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in a difficult position since it has politically benefited from its anti-Israel rhetoric. Israel may even see it as an opportunity to warm up relations, as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would be forced to take Israel’s side in such a conflict.
Let this be a lesson to Erdogan and others like him: deliberately antagonising and getting on the wrong side of Israel might be good for domestic politics, but it might very well come back to bite you when the real crises explode in your neighbourhood.
The international community must keep its cool and continue to insist on a diplomatic solution, as the alternative would be far too costly for all the parties concerned. The last thing that the Middle East needs today is a major military conflict. With the regional and global powers preoccupied and the P5+1 talks having largely failed, averting the use of force will be a difficult task.
Yes, averting the use of force will be difficult indeed, and a regional war would be extremely costly and is definitely not recommended. But it could all have been achieved quite easily had the regional and global powers and the P5+1 applied real, tight and increasing sanctions on Iran, and enforced them totally. The half-hearted sanctions, breached as soon as they were written by China, Russia and other Western countries, were never going to deter Iran and made the Western powers into a laughing stock in Iran, and have led to Israel’s very quandary today.
But from bitter experience I think the wrong conclusions will be drawn and it will all be called Israel’s fault in the end.