Military activities piling up in the region
Russian Black Sea fleet destroyer Smetliviy, which has missile capability, passed through Istanbul and the Çanakkale straits on Oct. 19 as a part of its Mediterranean patrol. It also took the same route in July this year.
Its destination is not public knowledge, but it would not be surprising to see it appear in the Eastern Mediterranean. This is because there is the only relevant Russian military base in the whole Middle East, in the port of Tartus in civil war-hit Syria.
Meanwhile, south of Syria, the U.S. is getting prepared to perform its biggest joint military exercise ever with Israel, in which 3,500 troops are expected to take part, along with anti-missile batteries and missile warships from the U.S. Navy. This is obviously a move by U.S. President Barack Obama to deter Iran and sooth Israel, right on the eve of elections on Nov. 6. The message is: “We don’t want to get involved in another war, but we are ready to defend Israel.”
Along Syria’s northern borders, Turkey carried out another military exercise - a small scale one involving tank battalions - on Oct. 18. General Necdet Özel, the Turkish Chief of General Staff, recently completed his inspections of the naval forces, after the troops along the Syrian border received orders from Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan to upgrade the war readiness of all forces.
On the other side of Turkey’s northeastern borders, Armenia recently completed a military exercise against the growing influence of oil and gas-rich Azerbaijan, which has had a fifth of its territory under Armenian occupation for nearly 20 years now.
In Iraq, tension is growing between the Nouri al-Maliki government in Baghdad and Massoud Barzani’s autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the north, by Turkish and Iranian borders.
Iran has been engaging in one military exercise after another and is already testing new missiles.
I asked a ranking Turkish diplomat whether the whole region was heading into a larger-scale conflict as a matter of infection from the Syrian war. This region, by the way, is defined by the oil and gas of the Arabian, Basra, Mezopotamia and Caspian basins, which represents a serious portion of the total global energy output.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “Nothing’s going to happen. Military exercises have taken place in this part of the world for decades. Relax and have a good weekend.”
He pretended as if he was not joking.