US sources: Turkey's sharp economic downswing undercuts its regional status
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 4, 2011, 9:55 AM (GMT+02:00)Tags: Turkey Israel US Flotilla probe
US warns Turkey its warships are no match for Israeli navy
In another maneuver to make trouble between Washington and Jerusalem, the Turkish Hurriyet carried a made-up story accusing US Republican sources of leaking a UN Report which maintained Israel's Gaza's blockade - and therefore its interception of a Turkish vessel and flotilla in May 2010 – was legal. The report, leaked to the New York Times Friday, Sept. 9, also criticized Israeli commandos for excessive force for defending themselves in a clash which led to the deaths of nine "peace activists" aboard the ship.
The report was commissioned by the UN Secretary General from a panel headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Sir Jeffrey Palmer.
Hurriyet charged that the Palmer report was leaked to the NYT by the same friends of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who arranged his speech last May to the two Houses of Congress.
DEBKAfile sources report: The Turkish newspaper's spiteful claim was slanted to upset President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who have been trying to mend the Ankara-Jerusalem breach, and justify the fury of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his foreign minister Ahmed Davutoglu at being caught in the wrong by the UN panel (which accused them of not doing enough to prevent the violence and the flotilla's "reckless" mission).
Friday, Ankara expelled the Israeli ambassador, suspended defense contracts with Jerusalem, announced legal action against senior Israeli figures in European courts, threatened to bring the dispute before the international court and “take measures for freedom of maritime movement in the Mediterranean.”
Israel continued to brush off the Turkish ultimatum to apologize for the nine deaths and end the Gaza blockade. Hurriyet quoted an unnamed Israeli official as replying: "They can go to hell. They will see what respecting international maritime law means when… our navy sails into the international waters of the Mediterranean."
US sources told DEBKAfile that the Erdogan government's outpouring of vindictive misinformation with a view to upsetting relations between the Obama administration and the Israeli government would cut no ice. Mixing in American domestic politics to misdirect its international crises was a dangerous game.
The Turkish Navy, they added, is no match for Israeli missile boat technology and their electronic jamming and tracking systems. Neither do the Turks have advanced submarines like Israel's German-made Dolphins or close air cover.
US sources following the dispute also dismissed as hollow Davutoglu's follow-up threat Saturday, Sept. 3: "If Israel persists with its current position," he warned, "the Arab spring will give rise to a strong Israel opposition as well as the debate on the authoritarian regimes."
Washington sources condemned such statements as beyond the acceptable diplomatic bounds. "It sounds as though Ankara is threatening to stir up the Palestinian and Israeli Arab populations against the Israeli government and army. If that's what Davutoglu meant to say, Turkey is sailing very close to the wind and risks President Obama and European governments suspending their participation in NATO operations in the Middle East.
Should Israel complain to the UN Security Council about Turkish war threats and the incitement to revolt by one UN member against another, Western powers would vote for a resolution of condemnation against Turkey.
DEBKAfile's sources in Washington and various European capitals warn that the unbridled vendetta Erdogan and his foreign minister are waging against Israel will boomerang against them. Early Sunday, Sept. 4, an American official proposed "calling their bluff." He disclosed Turkey may try and act as though it calls the shots as the leading Middle East diplomatic and economy, with enough leverage over the the Arab uprisings to channel their fury against Israel. However, Turkey is far from being on solid ground. Indeed, he reveals, economically Turkey is no better than a paper tiger, hiding a galloping crisis behind its anti-Israel rhetoric:
1. Ankara's published impressive GDP growth rate of 11 percent is artificially inflated by out-of-control credit pumped out by its central bank to create a short-term bubble. In fact, Turkey is fast sliding into deep economic slump. Its current account deficit has reached almost the same crisis level as those of Greece and Portugal and its currency faces devaluation.
Last week, Turkey's military chiefs, traditional guardians of the country's secular constitution, resigned in a body in protest against the imprisonment of scores of high-ranking officers for allegedly plotting against the government.
Erdogan is therefore locked into the twin crisis of a failing economy and a deep rift within his administration. US and European intelligence circles wonder about his ability to govern for much longer. They are concerned that he may drum up a military clash between the Turkish and Israel navies to distract popular attention from the troubles besetting his country. " For the Turkish prime minister, that would be a no-win road," said those sources.
2. They also criticized as unwise the Turkish foreign minister's implied threat to bring the Arab Revolt to Israel's doorstep. He would be better advised, they said, to deal with the far more palpable danger of the Syrian uprising spilling over into Turkey.