Where is NATO, where is Turkey in NATO?
If those governing Turkey do not want to share with Israel the data to be obtained by the AN/TPY-2 X-band radar to be located near Kürecik in the Central Anatolian province of Malatya within the framework of NATO’s missile defense system, they should be negotiating this with the United States, not with NATO.
The system is entirely American, including its missile-detecting and early warning satellites, monitoring and target-detecting ground radars, command-control infrastructure and finally its missile-killing missiles. What the Obama administration did was to enable this already existing capability to integrate with NATO for the safety of European allies. Nevertheless, the radar at Kürecik, like its match in Israel, will be operated by American staff but dedicated to NATO. Consequently, Turkey has the right to demand that non-NATO Israel be excluded from the data to be provided by this radar.
Israel is the United States’ strategic ally. And the integration of the missile defense system into NATO does not constitute a total obstacle for other U.S. allies, like Israel, to make use of this system. The system contains a structure with two brains, one American, the other being NATO command-control centers.
Data coming from satellites and radars first reach the American command control center, and then they are passed on to the NATO center. Data to be provided by Kürecik radar will also go to the American command control center first.
Now, Turkey, at this stage, is in a position to negotiate with the U.S. for measures and assurances to prevent the data provided by the radar stationed in its own soil to be passed to Israel along with NATO.
In short, the situation is this: There is no ground for Turkey to prevent a warning such as “A missile has been launched from Iran” that is coming from the satellites to the American command-control system to be passed onto the X-band radar stationed in Israel while it is being transmitted to the NATO command-control center.
But Turkey has the right to demand that the data Kürecik will provide after a missile has been launched and NATO command demands that the radar in Kürecik starts tracking it will not be passed onto Israel.
Now let’s take a look at the timetable.
The decision in principle to form the ballistic missile defense system was made at NATO’s Lisbon summit last November. Turkey announced Sept. 1 its decision to host the radar. Then, on Sept. 13, an agreement was signed with Romania that missile-killing missiles would be stationed there. Two days later, an agreement of the same content with Poland came into effect.
Now, NATO’s target is to launch the system on a temporary status before the summit in Chicago on May 20-21. Logic says, without activating the X-band radar in Kürecik, this target cannot be met. And again, logic demands that in order for the radar to become operational, an agreement between the U.S. and Turkey has to be reached that records Ankara’s reservation about Israel.
It is only legitimate to ask this question at this point and time: Why would Turkey want, with such persistence, to protect that information from Israel, the one that would enable an earlier extinction while in air of a nuclear head that would cause immense civilian losses underneath it wherever it explodes?
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) diplomacy was not able to give a satisfactory answer to this question to this day. I assume this attitude stems from the efforts of the AKP government’s trying to establish an internal consistency in its Middle East policy: On the one hand it is trying to create political power and legitimacy in the Middle East by forming a relationship of contention with Israel, even daring a military conflict, at least in statements, while on the other hand it wishes not to have the image of supporting Israel’s strategic defense.
Prime Minister Erdoğan’s indirect announcement that he perceives Israel’s nuclear weapons as a threat against Turkey is also consistent with this position.
The new Turkey, while acting together with NATO against Iran, is trying to balance this togetherness by being anti-Israel. But looking at the negative statements issued by Iran about the missile shield, it is not a very successful move.
It is impossible for Turkey to convince the other 27 NATO countries of the Israeli (nuclear) threat, as it is equally impossible to receive any understanding on the matter.
Even though Turkey is the front-running country to be subject to new threats against NATO members, it has a lonely position at other fronts it has selected for itself.
Kadri Gürsel is a columnist for daily Milliyet, in which this piece appeared Oct. 10. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.