Analysis: 'Talking Turkish' with the Syrians

There is something ironic in Turkey's protest Monday over Israel's alleged flyover of Syria.

September 11, 2007 00:56
2 minute read.
Analysis: 'Talking Turkish' with the Syrians

syrai turkey 88. (photo credit: )


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There is something ironic in Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan's protest Monday over Israel's alleged flyover of Syrian territory last week. "This is an unacceptable development," he said during a joint news conference with his Syrian counterpart, Walid Moallem. "All countries in the region must show respect to all countries' sovereignty and carefully avoid acts that lead to tensions," Babacan said. "Otherwise, tensions would be fueled, and peace and stability in the region might be harmed." Interesting words from the foreign minister of a country that just nine years ago amassed thousands of troops on its border with Syria and rattled its sabers to get Syria to end its support for the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and to cough up its leader, Abdullah Öcalan. Indeed, there are those who believe that Israel's alleged foray into Syrian airspace was an attempt to "talk Turkish" with the Syrians and use Turkish methods - saber rattling - to get Damascus to end support for Hamas and to disgorge Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal. If Syria ended its support for the PKK and eventually got rid of Öcalan, then - this logic goes - maybe similar methods can be used to get it to end its support for Hamas. According to this reasoning, Thursday's alleged overflight had to do with Hamas. Consider the following timeline. Last Monday a Kassam rocket slammed into the courtyard of a day care center in Sderot, sending a dozen kids to the hospital to be treated for trauma. Two days later, the security cabinet met pledged to "continue intensive military operations against all those involved in launching rockets and in perpetrating other terrorist actions. Nobody among those responsible for terrorism will be immune." And then on Thursday, the IAF allegedly, in what seems to be an obvious attempt to draw attention to itself, broke the sound barrier over Syria. If, indeed, Israel was doing little more than "talking Turkish" with the Syrians, then why the Turkish Foreign Minister's sharp tone, and why demarches registered with Israeli diplomats in Ankara and demands for clarification of what happened? While some are suggesting that Turkey's tone is a manifestation of its anger at the Anti-Defamation League's decision to reverse its stand on the massacres of Armenians during World War I and refer to them as genocide, the more plausible explanation has more to do with Iran. According to this reasoning, Turkey needs to protest loudly and clearly the possible violation of its airspace now because it is thinking that at some point Israel might attack Iran's nuclear facilities. In that eventuality, Turkey does not want to be blamed for letting Israeli planes use its airspace. And therefore, it may now just be building deniability.

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