Hard bargaining ahead: Turkey set for new role in Middle East?
Turkey will wait to move on a deal to host a NATO radar system, which it signed last week. Washington had been pressing Turkey for a speedy decision and implementation.It is thought the final decision will be taken after the Turkish PM meets the US and Iranian presidents at the UN General Assembly in New York. Journalist Yusuf Kanli notes that the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has apparently placed all his eggs in one basket.Issues up for discussion include Cyprus, relations with Israel, and suspected Iranian dirty bombs targeting Israel and western countries.“And [he] is now bargaining with the US president and Iranian president with that basket.”Turkey has been trying to expand its cultural influence over the Middle Eastern region, much of which used to belong to the former Ottoman Empire, Kanli points out. And in the last few months, the current Turkish government has turned cultural expansion into political expansion. Turkey is forging ever closer relations and establishing customs unions with Middle Eastern countries, as alternatives to the western partners. As the US pushes for the deployment of NATO anti-missile radar in Turkey, which it says is designed to protect Europe from attacks from Iran and North Korea, the Turkish people believe that the radar is a measure against a possible Iranian attack on Israel, Kanli says.“Many people think that this is a product of the Israeli security opposition against Iran.”In a way it is a very comical situation for Turkey, the journalist notes.“On the one hand we have downgraded our relations to second secretary level with Israel, while on the other hand we are seriously considering signing a memorandum of understanding to deploy the radar system, or the system to protect Israel, on our territory.”