NATO’s missile shield, Turkey and Israel

NATO’s missile shield, Turkey and Israel

It’s not just Israeli participation in Mediterranean naval exercises that was not raised by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen during talks Feb. 17, but any military exercise with NATO, too.

Turkey has put a veto on all NATO cooperation with Israel since the Mavi Marmara flotilla tragedy in May 2010. The recent reports about ongoing NATO consideration of the Israeli request is because of a misleading question to a NATO spokesperson on the general procedure. NATO officials did not even ask Turks about any Israeli cooperation since they know the answer.

Those are the answers from Turkish Foreign Ministry sources when asked about Israeli participation in NATO exercises or projects; like the recent missile shield radar. According to some Israeli websites, the capacity of the NATO missile shield early warning radar in Malatya, Turkey, had been tested against the possibility of an Iranian attack by Israelis, who share a similar system with the United States. The answer is a categorical “No” to that as well. “You heard what Rasmussen said,” one source underlined. “There is no sharing of data with third parties.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu added another line to that in yesterday’s joint press conference with Rasmussen: Not only no third parties, but “out of the question if Israel is involved.”
Turkey had tried hard and managed to exclude Iran’s name in the charter of the missile shield project; that was in order not to give the wrong impression that the sole purpose of the project was to provide protective measures against Iran. The developments afterwards proved that position right.

As U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had detailed during the Munich Security Conferences earlier in February, the system is consisting of the main early warning radar in Turkey, missile batteries in Romania and Poland, long range missiles on board the ship off northern coast of Spain with the command and control center in Germany; it looks like an Atlantic-European umbrella as the American’s tend to shift their military priorities to the Pacific region.

The strong comments by Ankara about Israel yesterday reflect the general attitude since the Mavi Marmara, but reflect a particular frustration as well because of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Neenyahu’s visit to Greek Cyprus the day before and discussions about joint oil and gas exploration projects, which caused the Turkish Foreign Ministry to issue a strong written statement.

There is more. Israeli secret service Mossad’s chief Tamir Pardo, who visited New Delhi days before the attack on Israeli officials in the Indian capital, had claimed that India was much safer for Israel than countries like Turkey. That was a “very unfortunate example to give,” one Turkish official said.

After 60 years of NATO membership, Turkey is focused on the Rasmussen-lead Smart Defense strategy of NATO to be discussed in the Chicago Summit in May, for which the missile defense system is the first big scale example. It seems Ankara has set all its shields to prevent any Israeli attempt to get into the alliance before an open apology regarding the Mavi Marmara incident.

Arrow shield, iron dome,