President George W. Bush sought to make Poland and the Czech Republic central to the NATO anti-ballistic missile shield, but President Obama chose to go with Turkey instead. Today, Turkey is showing the diplomatic cost of that decision. While the United States envisioned that missile shield and radar system to provide security not only for NATO, but for our other regional allies, Turkey has now vetoed sharing any early warning to Israel regarding potential Iranian missile launches. According to a report in the Turkish press:
Davutoğlu insisted that information gathered by a U.S.-led radar system, to be stationed in Turkey’s Malatya province as part of a NATO missile-shield project, would be available for use only by alliance members, denying suggestions that intelligence would be shared with Israel. “We will provide support only for systems that belong to NATO and are used solely by members of NATO,” he said. The minister dismissed as “manipulation” a newspaper report that quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying that data collected by the radar would be used to help defend Israel, stressing that Washington had assured Ankara that no such official existed. According to a Wall Street Journal report Friday, U.S. officials said they planned to fuse data from radars in Turkey, Israel and other sites to create a comprehensive picture of the missile threat to the region. Turkey, for its part, could also benefit from real-time data from radar the United States already operates in Israel, the report said.
There you have it: While many realists argue countries always act in their own best interests and ideology matters little, Turkey, like many Arab rejectionist states, shows the ideology of animosity toward Israel now supplants recognition of the benefits of cooperation. There is a cost here to the United States, however: While Washington maintains good relations not only with Israel, but also with many Arab and majority Muslim states, Turkey’s Islamist government is now trying to drag the United States—and American security—into its own ideological battles. It’s natural that Turkey feels itself all-powerful, but it has become the Charlie Sheen of nations, not understanding how ridiculous and self-destructive its behavior has become.