Is the US Seeking a Regional Replacement for Turkey? – Iran & Israel

By Serdar Turgut – AL Monitor – 2014-02-23 – As political and social turmoil in Turkey persists, the US administration has begun taking steps to downgrade Turkey’s influence and role in the region. Although there are no major visible changes in American policy at this time, the changes are becoming apparent in some issues that don’t seem to be interrelated.

The United States is working on arrangements that could be alternatives to Turkey. Because of global climate change, water resources — especially in our region — have become of paramount importance. Israel leads the world in desalination technology. But despite all American efforts and interventions, Turkey did not follow the proposed course and did not take steps to normalize relations with that country.

The United States and Israel took this as an opportunity to play the Iranian card. Messages from Iran indicate that it may be willing to be a model of moderate Islam, now that hopes on Turkey and Egypt have dwindled. Whether this will work or not is still unknown, but it is certain that the United States has such a design. For Turkey, it is crucial to find out if there is actually such an American scheme.In this context, Israel is preparing to launch a joint project with Iran to desalinate sea water to provide Iran with fresh water. While everyone admits that water resources in the region will be more valuable in years to come, a step by the United States and Israel to provide Iran with such an asset could be seen as a forerunner of political changes in the region.

While Iran is entering into joint projects with Israel, improving its ties with the United States and sending moderate messages to the world, Turkey persists on following an increasingly radical and hard-line position.

The United States has been expanding for some time the operations of its embassy in Yerevan. The size of an embassy is seen an indicator of the importance paid to the host country and the diversity of functions that embassy will assume. A source who knows about such issues told me that the United States is thinking of using Yerevan as its intelligence hub for the region. This makes me think that they don’t have much hope in Turkey, which in the past had cooperated fully in intelligence work with the United States and Israel, and that there is a search for alternatives.

What is not hard to understand is that the US administration has begun taking some parallel steps against Turkey as relations become tense, especially after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Washington visit. The United States never works with a single plan in such issues. They always have a plan B and C. That is, although there may be a plan to erase Turkey from its book, relations may still improve and a rational process may still develop.

The best and, for me, the most important, sign of that came from South Cyprus, but for some reason was ignored by Turkish media.

Nicos Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot leader, said that an accord that would end the 40 years of division of Cyprus may contribute to improvement of relations between Turkey and Israel. Anastasiades said an agreement in Cyprus may allow Turkey to transport the natural gas found in the region to other countries and noted that constructing a pipeline to Turkey was the cheapest option.

I wrote about this many times in this column. One of the biggest reserves of natural gas in the world was discovered in the eastern Mediterranean. Led by Israel, all major powers have their eyes on this basin called Leviathan. The United States and Israel are already taking measures to control that resource. Greek Cypriots were brought in after the deterioration of relations between Israel and Turkey.

Now we have a message from that bloc that could signify a desire to bring Turkey back into the fold. No doubt this was a message approved by the United States. In other words, the United States is still maintaining its hope that Turkey will get rid of its ideological obsessions and begin thinking of its economic and political interests, and is trying to promote Turkey-Israel cooperation to control natural gas reserves. Actually we needed this kind of cooperation on water, but Iran stepped in to fill the void we left behind. If we also cause a void in the natural gas issue, surely somebody else will fill it. I believe Turkey should shake the hand extended and normalize its relations with Israel quickly, without imposing stiff conditions. This is what Turkey’s interests require.