Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mideast Media Sampler 4/23/13: Will Turkey Allow Israeli Planes Into Turkey To Bomb Iran?

by David Gerstman, contributing blogger at Legal Insurrection

1) The Mahnaimi problem Turkey denied a report that was made on Sunday by Uzi Mahnaimi that Turkey agree to allow Israel bases from which to attack Iran. The Times of Israel follows up on its earlier report:
A Turkish official told the Hurriyet Daily News that the Sunday Times report was “a hypothesis” about the “step by step” process of the normalization of Turkish-Israeli relations. “Talking about the prospects of a military cooperation at this stage would be irrelevant,” he added. “We are not there yet. We haven’t even yet appointed a new ambassador to Israel.”
I'm surprised that the denial wasn't more categorical. Still it's a stretch to claim that Israel has an agreement with Turkey for airbases, when its negotiators just got to Turkey. The problem with repeating unreliable reports (as in the case of Mahnaimi) is that it gives the report a credibilty. Sure, by qualifying the article with the word "Report:" leading the headline you're saying that it was true that this story was reported without guaranteeing the veracity of the details. But why do that, if you're not also going to explain why the claim is dubious?

2) Middle East arms deal The United States is concluding an arms deal with the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Hoagland: arms deal "weaken the only containment strategy Obama consistently practiced - the containment of Israel" wapo.st/12D0xtp
— Shmuel Rosner (@rosnersdomain) April 23, 2013
The New York Times reports U.S. Arms Deal With Israel and 2 Arab Nations Is Near:
While one goal was to ensure that Israel continues to field the most capable armed forces in the region to deter Iran and counter a range of threats, it was equally important to improve the capabilities of two important Arab military partners. Another challenge, senior administration officials said, was coming up with a package that could help Israel deal with various security challenges — but devised so it would not be viewed as an American endorsement of accelerated planning by Israel to strike alone at Tehran’s suspected nuclear facilities. The objective, one senior administration official said, was “not just to boost Israel’s capabilities, but also to boost the capabilities of our Persian Gulf partners so they, too, would be able to address the Iranian threat — and also provide a greater network of coordinated assets around the region to handle a range of contingencies.” Those other security risks, officials said, include the roiling civil war in Syria — a country with chemical weapons that could be used by the Assad government or seized by rebels — and militant violence in the Sinai Peninsula.
The Washington Post reports Hagel: Mideast arms deal ‘a very clear signal’ to Iran and adds some background:
Hagel has visited Israel several times previously, including during his 12 years as a Republican senator from Nebraska, but this is his first visit since he became defense secretary in February. Hagel was narrowly confirmed by the Senate after some pro­Israel groups vigorously opposed his nomination, arguing that he was insufficiently supportive of the Jewish state and too soft on Iran. Speaking to reporters aboard his military aircraft, Hagel was reluctant to reopen that debate, saying that his confirmation hearing was “years ago.” He also took pains to emphasize that the United States and Israel regard Iran as a clear threat that must be prevented from developing nuclear weapons. He stressed Israel’s right to self-defense and repeated that the Obama administration would not rule out military action to stop Iran from building nuclear bombs.
Yes, pro-Israel groups objected to Hagel's nomination. But their "argument," as the reporter put it, was Hagel's record. Would the Hagel who objected to the undue influence of the Israeli lobby object to this deal that Secretary of Defense Hagel is concluding?

3) Good Kerry, Bad Kerry Secretary of State John Kerry has gotten some flack from Turkey. The New York Times reports Turkey Criticizes Kerry Over Request to Postpone Visit to Gaza:
The criticism came a day after Mr. Kerry, while on a visit here, told reporters that he had urged Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to delay the Gaza trip to avoid inflaming tensions at a time when the Americans were trying to revive talks between the Palestinians and Israel. “Only our government decides where and when our prime minister or another Turkish official would go to, and is not in a position to seek permission or acceptance of any authority,” Mr. Erdogan’s deputy prime minister and government spokesman, Bulent Arinc, said in a televised statement. “Because both Mr. Kerry and the world know that Turkey has the power to do whatever it wishes at the desired time.” Mr. Arinc’s statement may have been partly intended for a domestic audience, aimed at countering the possible impression that a visiting American secretary of state could give Turkey orders. It was also notable that the Turkish reaction was delivered by a lower-ranking official, an indication that the Turks did not want the issue to escalate.
True, Turkey is an independent nation, but so is the United States. Erdogan reportedly plans to visit Gaza after a visit to Washington. If Erdogan continues to defy the wishes of Washington maybe it would be appropriate for President Obama to reschedule the planned Washington trip, as long as Erdogan dismisses Washington's concerns. It's good to see Secertary Kerry articulating a good American policy. Unfortunately not all of Kerry's comments have been well considered:
Kerry's equation of families of Mavi Marmara terrorists with Boston terror victims shows shocking moral imbecility. timesofisrael.com/deputy-ministe…
— Melanie Phillips (@MelanieLatest) April 22, 2013

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