Turkey must avoid this mess
There are forces trying to ratchet up the tension in the Middle East with scant consideration for the conflagrations that will ensue. Iran, Israel and Syria are the principal sources of this negative dynamic. All three countries act as if they have a stake in some kind of regional war.
Take Israel. It never liked the Arab Spring. It regretted the political demise of Hosni Mobarak. It worries now that Bashar al-Assad, arch enemy that he may be, will depart in a disorderly manner, leaving the ground to radical and even more rabidly anti-Israeli Sunni elements.
Striking at Iran at the moment will clearly make Israelis feel good, but it is doubtful if this will enhance their country’s security in the long run. The more likely outcome is that it will automatically unite Shiites and Sunnis against Israel again - overcoming their current sectarian rivalry. Iran will be more than pleased at this outcome at a time when its regional influence is waning due to the Arab spring.
It may loose whatever potential it has for producing nuclear weapons, if indeed it has any at all. But it will have a region once again spending all its energy in opposing Israel, and where all talk of democracy is placed on the back burner, “due to security reasons.”
In addition to this Iran and other countries in the region will have more reason to try and go nuclear, given the presence of a nuclear Israel on their doorsteps.
In Syria, on the other hand, Bashar al-Assad will also delight in the distraction of an Israel strike on Iran at a time when he is combating a Sunni uprising at home. Such a strike will take the pressure off of him, enabling him to shore up his position.
Assad is already using Russia’s and China’s support at the Security Council to great advantage, and he will be more than happy in an environment of conflict where eyes are focused on Iran and Israel.
A strike by Israel against Iran will also reduce the political pressure from Turkey on Syria of course. It is also obvious that Assad’s strengthening his position at home will benefit Iran too since it is currently supporting the regime in Damascus.
Despite its unquestioning support for Israel - based on questionable assumptions, as seen during the current vote at UNESCO on Palestinian membership - Washington must nevertheless be worried about all of this.
It is clear that an Israel strike against Iran will be considered as having an “American input” in the region and the world, and whatever influence Washington hopes to have over the Arab Spring will evaporate instantly.
Should the U.S. goes further and gets involved militarily on Israel’s side in a conflagration whose flames are fanned by Israel, Iran and Syria, there is no Turkish parliament that will enable joint Turkish American bases to be used for this purpose, whatever the cost to Turkish-US ties. Anti-Arab hawks in Washington can factor this out of their planning now.
At any rate, if things do come to a head, and Israeli President Shimon Peres appears to be intimating they will soon, the best thing for Turkey is to stay out of any military dimension and focus on the humanitarian dimension instead, while working - to the limited extent that it can - to try and ensure peace in a region where not just Iran and Syria, but Israel too is free of nuclear weapons.
The rest should be up to Israelis, Arabs, Iranians and Americans to sort out, if indeed they can, which sadly appears unlikely. The bottom line is Turkey should stay out of the bloody mess that some are maintaining - somewhat wishfully - is just around the corner in the Middle East.