MID-EAST REALITIES © - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 8/08/2001: It was just a few years ago that in all likelihood the Mossad and CIA helped the Turk's capture Kurdish Leader Abdullah Ocalan after first pushing him out of exile in Syria, the Moscow, then Greece, and then grabbing him in Nairobi. It was three years ago last month that MER first published an article about the great importance of the new military alliance that has developed between Israel and Turkey -- "New U.S./Turkey/Israel Alliance Circumvents and Bottles Up The Arabs." And it was two years ago that the prolific and courageous British journalist, Robert Fisk, first gave us some of the details behind the new strategic military relation Turkey actually courted with Israel. In addition to Turkey, the Israelis have a very important military and economic relationship with India, and also with China; not to mention of course what goes on with the United States and major European States including the UK and Germany.
ANKARA, Turkey (AP - 8/08/01) - As Israel faces increasing isolation and anger throughout the Middle East, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon arrived Wednesday in Turkey - the only country in the region where he is warmly welcomed.
Radical Islamic groups are organizing protests against the one-day visit, but they will have little impact in a country that is expanding its already flourishing political, economic and military ties with Israel.
For Israel, ties with overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey are crucial for a country that is increasingly feeling isolated as violent confrontations with the Palestinians continue.
For Turkey, the relationship with Israel is economically and militarily important and is a way to increase Turkey's profile in Washington, which has close ties with both countries. To Turkey's staunchly secular establishment, protests by radical Islamic groups may only make the relationship more attractive.
Sharon was expected to discuss a series of new defense projects including the sale of Popeye air-to-ground missiles and the Arrow anti-ballistic-missile missiles, and the refurbishing of Turkey's U.S.-made M-60 tanks. Sharon would also discuss the possible sale of Turkish water to Israel, a natural gas pipeline and irrigation projects in Turkey's arid southeast.
Sharon's trip to Ankara follows recent visits by Israel's military chief, defense minister and foreign minister. ``In the eyes of Israel, Turkey is a trustworthy country,'' said Ilnur Cevik, editor-in-chief of the Turkish Daily News. Turkey, which has close ties with the Palestinians, also has occasionally served as a messenger between Israel and the Palestinians.
Although there is public sympathy toward the Palestinians there is little approval for violent attacks by Palestinian militants against civilians. Islamic groups were expected to protest the visit and have been highlighting Israeli attacks against Palestinians.
On Tuesday, Turkish police broke up an anti-Israeli protest in Istanbul and rounded up 135 demonstrators, including women wearing Iranian-style black chadors. Police beefed up security and deployed armored personnel carriers in downtown Ankara. Armored personnel carriers are often deployed in Turkish cities at the hint of possible protests.
Islamic papers blasted Sharon as a ``murderer'' and ``butcher.'' Sharon was defense minister when hundreds of Palestinians were massacred by an Israeli-allied Lebanese militia in Sabra and Chatilla, two refugee camps in Lebanon, in 1982.
On Tuesday, the pro-Islamic daily Akit printed a large photograph of the Israeli prime minister on its front page, superimposed with fangs dripping blood. Although the opposition appears to be limited to Islamic groups, Turkey has at times tried to keep its relations with Israel at a low-profile, in part to avoid tensions with its Arab neighbors and Iran.
Turkey has often limited media access to visiting Israeli military and government officials, and earlier this year, denied the press access to joint Israeli-U.S.-Turkish air maneuvers.
MER - WASHINGTON - 7/26/1998: Probably the greatest strategic move in the Clinton post-Cold War years is what could be called "The Ankara Pact" -- an alliance between the U.S., Turkey, and Israel that essentially circumvents and bottles up the Arab countries. Once again, the Arabs are caught unprepared, weak, and unable to assert themselves.
And this time by an alliance between their former occupier, today's modern-day Ottomans, their new enemy, the little but powerful state of Israel, and the modern-day empire which keeps the weak and corrupt Arab client regimes in power preventing the rise of Arab nationalism.
"Turkey is slowly reasserting its historic role in the region by stepping up calls for the creation of regional multinational peacekeeping forces... Over the past two years Turkey has forged a security partnership with Israel. Analysts say the two countries, both pro-Western and non-Arab, and generally mistrusted in the Middle East, share a deep concern about terrorism and Islamic extremism. Under the partnership, Israel has won lucrative contracts to upgrade Turkish F-4 Phantom and F-5 fighters and is eyeing more Turkish contracts as the Turkish military embarks on a modernization program.
Another agreement allows Israeli pilots to train in Turkey... Turkey long has hesitated to exert itself as a regional power, mindful of stirring up enmity among its former Ottoman subjects in the Balkans or Middle East, or with historic rivals Greece and Russia."
This way of presenting things, as done recently in the Washington Post (7/16/98), hardly gives the full scope of what is taking place. A major strategic transformation of the region is actually taking place, the Arabs once again undermined and surrounded, outgunned and outmanuevered.
In a sense the U.S. is replacing its former strong-man Iran in the region with a potentially stronger and strategically even more important Turkey. And Israel is using the opportunity to create a new military alliance that essentially threatens the Arab heartland countries, as well as the new Iran, at a time when they are more politically divided than ever and growing militarily weaker because of the backwardness of their political and economic institutions coupled with needs of the "client regimes" not to opppose their American protectors.
It's the return of the Ottomans and the further decline of the Arabs, with the major addition of Israel in the strategic equation. Kicked out at the beginning of the Century -- when the Western colonial powers carved up the region for themselves at the "Peace to end all Peace" post-war conference in Paris in 1918 -- now at the end of the century, Arab oil no longer what it was then, the Ottomans are being brought into the equation as the oil fields north of the Arab lands are now prized.
In another sense the Arabs may now have missed their moment in history. Rarely has a major civilization so rich in crucial resources played its strategic and economic cards more badly then have the Arabs collectively.
Indeed, that was the main reason the West put in place the "client regimes" -- the Husseins, al-Sauds, al-Sabahs, the Shah of old, as well as the panoply of narrowly based military regimes -- in the first place. And that grand strategy which goes back to the days of Lawrence of Arabia and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire has worked brilliantly -- for the West and Israel that is. The big loosers of course have been the people of the Middle East now divided from each other more than ever and who languish under systems of still growing oppression, both political and economic. The biggest losers of all...the Palestinians.
MER FLASHBACK - 2/24/1999:
"The extent of Turkish-Israeli military co- operation is still largely unknown to the Arab states, and to many in Israel itself." "Encirclement of Syria lies at the heart of this still-growing alliance."
"The Americans chair a regular meeting of Turkish and Israeli intelligence officers in Tel Aviv and on at least one occasion last year a Jordanian officer was also present."
FOR MONTHS, Israeli and Turkish intelligence officers have manned joint listening posts on the Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian borders, sharing information on guerrillas of the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) and Syrian and Iraqi military movements.
In Ankara and Jerusalem, Israeli and Turkish officials have also shared their experiences of two similar occupation zones - Israel's in southern Lebanon and Turkey's so-called "security zone" in northern Iraq. Israeli jets now regularly flyalong the Turkish-Syrian frontier and - according to Syrian sources - over northern Iraq as well.
Encirclement of Syria lies at the heart of this still-growing alliance. When Syria put the Kurdish PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan on a plane to Moscow last year - the first part of a journey of exile that has ended in a Turkish prison - it was a sign of just how concerned Damascus had become by Turkey's power and the threats it was uttering. Indeed, the warnings to Syria from Sulieman Demirel, the Turkish President, to end its support for Mr Ocalan were almost identical in wording to those issued by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, to Syria when faced by Hizbollah attacks against Israeli occupation troops in southern Lebanon. "We reserve the right to Retaliate against Syria," Mr Demirel said last October. "All necessary measures will be taken over Syria if the need arises."
But the extent of Turkish-Israeli military co-operation is still largely unknown to the Arab states, and to many in Israel itself. The Turks are interested in purchasing Israel's "Propine" early-warning system and its top secret "Wall" anti-missile technology, which is partly funded by the United States.
The upgrading by Israel of Turkey's Phantom jets is already costing Ankara £382m, a small price for the Turkish military, which has £19bn to spend on hardware over the next 10 years. Turkey has given Israel permission to fly its jets through Turkish airspace to attack Iraq if Israel is targeted by Iraqi missiles as it was in the 1991 Gulf War.
Professor Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Centre for strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, first revealed the extent of Turkish-Israeli co-operation in a remarkable - but largely unpublicised - lecture at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington five months ago. He spoke only vaguely of the joint listening posts on the Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian borders but described them as "an important facet of our intelligence gathering capability". There was also, Professor Inbar added, "co-operation on terror".
The alliance was a Turkish idea, initiated in 1997 when the Turkish air force commander arrived without warning to see the Israeli ambassador in Ankara with the words - according to Professor Inbar - "we want to invite the Israeli chief of the air force to come to Turkey to visit". It wasn't all plain sailing. When the Turkish navy paid its first official visit to the Israeli port of Haifa last year, the Israelis had not bothered to send a naval representative to meet it; and Turkish officers were astounded when the Israeli harbourmaster refused to let their ships into port unless they agreed to pay harbour dues.
But Israeli planes are now training in Turkey, using Turkish bombing ranges, just as Turkish pilots are now flying in the skies over Israel. The Americans chair a regular meeting of Turkish and Israeli intelligence officers in Tel Aviv and on at least one occasion last year a Jordanian officer was also present. If Jordan's new King Abdullah was to upgrade this relationship, it would further isolate Syria. Mr Netanyahu's government has long believed - wrongly - that President Assad can be blackmailed into making peace without handing back the occupied Golan Heights if Syria was sufficiently intimidated.
President Demirel attempted to calm Arab fears when he attended the Islamic summit in Tehran last year although Turkey pointedly hosted a senior Israeli air force officer in Ankara at the same time. Oddly, Turkish distrust of Syria sometimes outdoes even Israel's suspicions. In 1996, just after the Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered, the deputy Turkish foreign minister described Israel's policy towards Syria as appeasement.
Back in 1982, Turkey condemned Israel's invasion of Lebanon as aggression until Israel furnished Turkey with intelligence files on the Armenian ASALA extremist group. Much to Turkey's delight, Mr Ocalan's PKK are always referred to by the Israelis as "terrorists"; Israel has expressed sympathy for Iraqi Kurds - but never for the millions of Kurds who live under Turkish military oppression. Israel supports only a limited form of autonomy for the Kurds of Iraq; which is not surprising since that is precisely the limited freedoms it wishes to give the Palestinians.
For Israel has had to cut its moral cloth to maintain its Turkish alliance. Turkey has successfully sought the help of Jewish lobby groups in New York and Washington to cosy up to the Americans and emphasise Turkey's strategic importance to the Middle East in the aftermath of the Soviet Union's Collapse. Inevitably, pro-Israeli groups have now begun to sympathise with Turkey's contention that the 1915 Turkish massacre of 1.5 million Armenians did not constitute genocide and may not have been - despite absolute proof to the contrary - the century's first holocaust.
Professor Inbar lamentably ducked the moral point in Washington. "I cannot really make a competent statement on this issue," he said - and Jewish American members of Congress have gone so far as to suggest no Armenian genocide took place. Others have been braver. Yosi Sarid, a member of the Knesset's foreign affairs and defence committee, remarked that "Jews who lost 6 million of their people in the horror of the Nazi genocide should be the last to join in denying the existence of another genocide . There is a hardly a single outrage this [Israeli] government is not willing to commit under the pretence of a narrow-minded national interest, which is bound to prove counter-productive."
* Robert Fisk of is the longest serving Western correspondent in the Middle East. He writes for the London newspaper THE INDEPENDENT which recently published this article.