Turkey, Israel ‘biggest losers’ of Iran, Syria shifts

Turkey, Israel ‘biggest losers’ of Iran, Syria shifts

Turkey and Israel, the two long-lost allies, might have been at odds for the last couple of years over the latter’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010, nevertheless, they have lately been met with the very same cold U.S. shoulder from slightly different edges over Washington’s unexpected shifts in both the Iranian and Syrian crises.

For starters, the Turkish-Israeli relationship, which used to be designated as “strategic” for both of the nations and the region due to its religious-based nature, has seen the bottom level after the 2010 Israeli attack on a Turkish-led relief campaign to Hamas-run Gaza Strip and killed nine pro-Palestinian Turkish citizen activists. The two appeared to be soothing the tensions as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced by the U.S. President Barack Obama to apologize to the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the attack, but the traumatic saga failed to reach an end with the two sides dragging feet on restoring ties. The lingering strain was surely a portrayal of the hard-liner political path and posture taken by both Erdoğan and Netanyahu.

However, what the two leaders failed to see was that their volatile environment, namely the Middle East, in which their “strategic” relations are highly praised by the U.S.-led Western camp, did not stay the same. Both Turkey and Israel have been served with the “last call” when the United States took a baby step to end its decades-old hostility with Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Perhaps, Obama has not been bestowed a chance to take a picture featuring the U.S. president shaking hands with his Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, but it did not hold him from speaking directly with the “moderate” leader in a late-coming phone call.

The tiny overtures between Washington and Tehran now hardly herald a new era but considering the long-troubled U.S.-Iranian ties, the thaw has already started irking Israel and Turkey, which has been capitalizing on the tense status quo between the Americans and Iranians. Obama’s “not-a-big-deal” overture toward Iran has made Netanyahu even say, “If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone,” during the U.N. General Assembly last week. Despite the assurances given by Obama to stand against an Iran with nuclear weapons, Netanyahu appeared defiant on “punishing” Iran in case the Islamic Republic decides to go for nuclear arms.

Netanyahu’s defiance on Iran was another sign that he failed to see that he is not in the same spot he used to be a couple of years ago when the premier has mounting Western support for a mission against the Iranian nuclear drive, which Tehran still says is solely peaceful. Engaging in a war of words or even war’s self is not serving the United States’ interest anymore, at least under Obama, and other world players, whether friends or foes, want a negotiated solution, rather than a war that would cost them dearly.

The Turkish path, on the other hand, is a bit trickier since the U.S. overture toward Iran is not only about Iran, but Syria too. Facing a “lost-lost” situation over changing regional balances, Turkey has first lost its self-proclaimed mission of being the messenger between Tehran and the West. Ankara worked hard to be a go-between in the negotiations between Iran and world powers with a posture indicating that the talks will hit a dead end without it. Obama did not kill the messenger but at least he made Turkey face the reality, which was worse than being killed.

The second blow came in the Syrian crisis, in which Turkey led the chorus for the fall of the regime, since it was Obama’s forced and reluctant decision not to wage a war on Syria that cleared his way toward the gates of Iran. The aforementioned slight difference comes in here, since Turkey is accustomed to “alone stands” in any issue with the outside world due its historical choices and characteristics but not in declaring a war on its neighbor even if it pretends to be ready for it.