by BARÇIN YİNANÇ
Given the Turkish governments animosity toward Israel, the Israeli government would be foolish to think a missile defense system in Turkey would defend it from an Iran attack, according to an American foreign policy expert.
Ariel Cohen, from Washington think tank The Heritage Foundation, criticized what he called the Turkish leadership’s adamant position on not letting any data collected by a planned NATO missile defense system radar be shared with Israel.
"This position suggests an ill intention against the security of Israel," he told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review during a Tuesday interview.
"This position can be perceived as potentially a support for those who'd like to attack Israel."
Cohen countered arguments the NATO missile defense system is being constructed to protect Israel from an Iranian attack. Turkey joined NATO countries in a decision to adopt a missile defense system covering all the alliance's territory at the summit in Lisbon last week, despite critics’ arguments that the system would also aim to protect Israel.
Israel has its own missile defense system against potential missile attacks, Cohen said. Iran does not need to use Turkish airspace to hit Israel, he said, adding that Israel has complicated relations with some other NATO countries that are critical of some Israeli policies.
While he described the outcome of the NATO summit as a win-win situation for both Ankara and Washington, he warned the question of operational control of the system remains an important one.
“Everything should be agreed in advance. And it should be agreed on in a way that the system could not be shut down on the whim of one general or politician," he said.
Cohen believes Turkey's general strategic vector is worrying a lot of people. Turkey's refusal to let United States soldiers use Turkish territory to enter Iraq in 2003, as well as its refusal to let U.S. warships enter the Black Sea, the offer of the Turkish-Russian platform which excluded the European Union and the U.S. during the Russian-Georgian war in 2008 and more recently the Turkish-Brazilian initiative on the nuclear standoff between Iran and the West, are all examples of worrying developments, he said.
While Turkish-U.S. relations are currently not at their peak, Turkey would be unlikely to find a more sympathetic U.S. government than the Obama administration, Cohen said. "Any government in the future will be tougher."
"Obama has spent tremendous political capital by coming to Turkey in the early days of his administration, to highlight Turkey as a model of a democratic Muslim state. But he was thinking of the Turkey of eight years ago. This image no longer applies. Turkey has wasted its goodwill in Washington. Many in the U.S. are disappointed," he said.
The U.S. has to be clearer in terms of what Turkey will gain if it maintains its Western orientation, according to Cohen. "Washington should also be equally clear on what Turkey will lose if it has an anti-western orientation."
Cohen also criticized the U.S. for remaining passive in public diplomacy, saying it should have objected to movies like "Valley of the Wolves" that depict a negative image of Americans.
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