Doing Israel’s Bidding--Trump’s Assault on Turkey
By: Bishara A Bahbah/Arab America Featured Columnist
First, it was Iraq. Then, it was Iran. Now, it is Turkey!
Successive US administrations have assaulted countries in the Middle East, at Israel’s bidding and behest, in Israel’s successful attempts to rid itself of its perceived enemies at the expense of thousands of US lives and, at a staggering monetary cost estimated between $100 to $200-billion of US tax-dollar money.
Israel wanted to wipe out Saddam Hussein and convinced the United States to wage a costly and disastrous war against Iraq.
Under the false pretense that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, Iraq was destroyed and became in complete shambles. Following the loss of one million Iraqis, mostly civilians, the world discovered that no such weapons existed in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The United States, in the meantime, lost over 3,500 soldiers, suffered tens of thousands of wounded soldiers, and squandered over $100-billion of US taxpayers’ money–compliments of Israel’s self-serving interests and unfounded claims.
Israel then wanted to go after Iran and convinced the naïve and, quite frankly, injudicious US policymakers that Iran was developing nuclear weapons aimed at destroying Israel. The US imposed severe sanctions on Iran that were only partially lifted following the Obama Administration’s agreement which was reached with Iran in cooperation with the four other permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, dubbed as the P5+1. This agreement was signed and ratified despite Israel’s vehement and frenzied opposition to such a deal, including an appearance by Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, before a joint session of the US Congress, without the prior knowledge or approval of the US President.
By signing the Iran Nuclear Deal, as it became known, Iran dismantled a huge portion of its nuclear program.
The deal called for:
- Reducing Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium by 97 percent;
- Banning Iran from possessing any uranium potent enough that could be used to fuel a bomb;
- Capping the number of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, devices used to enrich uranium, at roughly 5,000; and
- Providing wide-ranging and intrusive IAEA inspections designed to verify that Iran is not cheating on any portion of the deal.
Israel was forced to swallow the bitter pill and live with the Iran nuclear deal until the advent of the daftest, most unpredictable, and most unstable US president in history, Donald Trump. In May 2018, Trump was blind-sided by Israel’s conniving prime minister to officially withdraw from the multilateral agreement with Iran and re-impose US sanctions against Iran to the chagrin and consternation of the other international signatories of the agreement: the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany. Once again, Israel conned the United States to do its bidding against the advice of its own Secretary of State and its National Security Advisor who were sacked and replaced by two anti-Iran hawks and Trump yes-men.
Turkey, Israel’s current target of vengeance had actually developed warm ties with Israel between 1948-1992 and was for years the only major Muslim country to recognize Israel. Israeli-Turkish ties further flourished into a strategic partnership between 1992 and 2010. Turkey was one of the five biggest customers of Israeli arms in the past decade. In 2009, Turkey was Israel’s largest arms customer with purchases estimated at $320 million.
In 2008, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Israel that its assault on Gaza would “harm military relations” between the two countries. In 2009 and 2010, Israel continued exporting arms to Turkey until the Marmara Affair which occurred on May 31, 2010. On that day, Israeli soldiers boarded a Turkish flotilla consisting of six vessels headed from Turkish ports to Gaza to break Israel’s naval blockade around the besieged Gaza Strip. During the Israeli assault on the civilian flotilla, eight Turkish citizens were killed along with a US citizen who was also a Turkish national. The ensuing deterioration in relations led to Turkey’s severance of diplomatic ties with Israel, marking a low point in Israeli-Turkish ties and ushering the end of the strategic relationship between the two countries.
Even after the restoration of diplomatic ties between Israel and Turkey at the prodding of the Obama administration, relations between the two countries remained strained.
- Turkey’s support to the Palestinians in general and, Hamas and Gaza, in particular;
- Turkey’s assault on the Kurds in Iraq and Syria which Israel considers as important allies;
- Israel’s close ties to both Greece and Cyprus – countries viewed as long-time enemies of Turkey. The Israeli air force recently conducted joint drills with the Greek air force, one of many areas of cooperation between the two countries;
- Israel’s attempt to create a strategic alliance with Arab Gulf countries against Iran and to, some extent, against Turkey which is allied to Qatar; and
- In a paper authored by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv, it outlined all the reasons why Turkey should not be considered a NATO member. The study pointed out that beginning in 2015, Turkey systematically and clandestinely began abetting various jihadist groups in Syria, including ISIS.
Israel, in the meantime, began a campaign against Turkey in the United States with the objective of souring US-Turkish relations.
- As recently as a month ago, official Israeli sources anonymously attacked Turkey in the United States. Those officials advocated that “Turkey is a member of NATO on paper only, and now cooperates with countries that are against the US, not only in words;”
- Israel publicly opposed the delivery of F-35 stealth aircraft to Turkey which has already ordered 116 of those planes with deliveries expected to begin in 2020;
- In December 2017, Turkey announced that it would acquire two Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, making it the first NATO member state to operate such systems. In response, and at Israel’s instigation, the Senate Appropriation Committee passed a spending bill for US foreign policy operations on June 21 after adding an amendment blocking delivery of the F-35s unless Turkey drops its plans to buy the Russian S-400 systems;
- Israeli intelligence agencies have repeatedly warned US policymakers and members of Congress that Turkey is becoming a “major anti-Western” power while building a mighty war machine; and
- In January 2018, the annual “Freedom in the World” report, produced by the US Freedom House, classified Turkey as “not free” for the first time since the report series began in 1999.
Relations between Turkey and the United States took a sharp turn to the worst earlier this month when the US began imposing sanctions on Turkey because of Turkey’s refusal to release an American Pastor, Andrew Brunson, whom Turkey held on terror and espionage charges in the aftermath of the coup attempt against Erdogan in 2016. Matters got even worse last Friday when Trump stated that he would double the tariffs on steel and aluminum from Turkey. This row triggered a currency plunge in the Turkish lira which dropped over 16 percent in one day. The lira depreciated another 7 percent on Monday.
The currency plunge risks turning into a full-blown financial and political crisis for Turkey and, hitherto, the outcome is unknown and quite unpredictable.
Thus, Israel has succeeded yet again in manipulating the United States into going after one of Israel’s perceived enemies. This time, the enemy, Turkey, happens to be a fellow NATO member that commands the second largest military force in NATO after the United States.
The implications of the latest US assault against Turkey cheered in the background by a vengeful Netanyahu, could have far-reaching consequences on NATO and the alliance. Erdogan charged the US of launching an “economic siege” against Turkey. Addressing Trump in a press conference in Ankara on Monday, Erdogan remarked, “We are together in NATO and then you seek to stab your strategic partner in the back. Can such a thing be accepted?”
Israel has proven, yet again, its mastery at manipulating US administrations to get back at its enemies–first Iraq, then Iran, and now Turkey–even though the latter is militarily powerful and a key member of the NATO alliance.
–Ryan Wentz and Sahar Vardi, “Israel’s Arms Exports: A Decade of War and New Markets,” +972, April 12, 2018
–Firat Kozk, “Losing Faith Fast, Istanbul Merchants Throw in the Towel on the Lira,” www.bloomberg.com; August 12, 2018
–Fulya Ozerkan, “Turkey Fails to Halt Lira Carnage, Erdogan Slams ‘Stab in the Back’,” AFP, August 13, 2018.
–Arie Agozi, “Israel to US: Don’t Sell F-35s to Turkey,” Breaking Defense, 29 June 2018
–Dan Arbell, “The US-Turkey-Israel Triangle,” www.brookingsinstitution.edu; October 26, 2014
Prof. Bishara Bahbah was editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem based “Al-Fajr” newspaper between 1983-84. He was a member of the Palestinian delegation to the Peace Talks on Arms Control and Regional Security. He taught at Harvard and was the associate director of its Kennedy School’s Institute for Social and Economic Policy in the Middle East.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Arab America.