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Something Funny’s Going On

A quick survey of some recent stories reveals a perplexing pattern:

  1. Israel signs $1.6 b arms deal with Turkish ally Azerbaijan
  2. Turks and Azeris rally against Armenian massacre of Azeris
  3. Turkey restricts use of its air space by Israeli cargo flights
  4. Turks thank Israelis for relief flights after earthquake
  5. Iran accuses Azerbaijan of cooperating with Mossad

Talk about mixed signals…

Via Meadia is scratching its head, waiting for more clues.

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  • WigWag

    Ironies abound!

    Could this be one of those situations that are so counterintuitive that the Tea Party acolytes who Professor Mead champions just can’t get their imaginations around it?

    There is simply no question that the Mossad has been working quietly but diligently with the Azerbaijanis for several years. The Mossad works with Azerbaijan for the same reason that it works with the Kurds in the North of Iraq; Azerbaijan and Iraqi Kurdistan offer far and away the easiest border crossings for Israeli agents to infiltrate into Iran.

    Although it is rarely talked about, one of the reasons that the Israelis never pressed their American friends to advocate for the Armenian Genocide resolution (which Israel should be naturally sympathetic to) is not only that the Turks were, until Erdogan took over, allied with the Israelis. The less well-known reason was that the Israelis are allied with the Azerbaijanis and Azerbaijan and Armenia are locked in an angry and stalemated dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh.

    The ironies go even further than Team Mead mentions. While the Israelis are allied with Azerbaijan which is allied with Turkey, the Israelis are also allied with the Iraqi Kurds who the Turks view with, at the very least, muted hostility. Turkey worries that the Iraqi Kurds are aiding PKK fighters who make constant and successful raids into Turkey. In the meantime, the Israelis are actively arming and training the Peshmerga. One thing that Israel gets in return is both listening posts and access points to infiltrate into Iran.

    By the way, it could not have escaped the attention of the Iranians or their Shia allies in Iraq that the Kurds recently provided sanctuary for the Iraqi Sunni vice-president Tariq al-Hashimi. It is somewhat ironic to reflect on the fact that al-Hashimi, a Sunni leader with possible connections to Sunni guerrillas was protected from the Shia dominated army of Iraq by the Israeli-trained and supported Peshmerga.

    One other small irony worth mentioning is that when it came to the Armenian Genocide, there is simply no question that the Kurds in the Ottoman Empire were every bit as complicit as the ethnic Turks. Of course the Turks are now treating the Kurds in their country in a miserable manner somewhat reminiscent of how both the Turks and the Kurds treated the Armenians in the early 20th century.

    The Turks are conflicted; they want to lead the Sunni world which means opposing both Israel and Iran. On the other hand, Israel and Turkey are both allied with Azerbaijan and the Israelis and Turks both support the Azerbaijanis in their dispute with the Armenians over Nagorno-Karabakh.

    The Turks hate the Kurds while the Israelis and Kurds have warm relations. One thing Turkey does not want to do is stir up so much trouble with the Israelis that Israel helps the Peshmerga to grow too strong or, if worst comes to worst, starts supporting the PKK.

    It is interesting to note that the reasons for these seemingly strange alliances go deeper than strategic necessity. Even before Israel was founded, Jews living in Kurdistan were usually treated kindly by their Kurdish neighbors. Kurds were, for the most part either secular or moderate in their religious views and like the Jews, they were treated miserably by the Arabs who surrounded them. Ask any Israeli of Kurdish decent how his kinsmen were treated by the Kurds and the stories relayed to you will be warm and generous. Ask any Israeli descending from a family that came from an Arab community and the stories you are told will be far less happy.

    Similarly there is little history of animosity between Jews and Azeris. On the other hand, despite their reprehensible treatment at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, in the late 19th century and the early 20th century the Armenians were harshly anti-Semitic with the Armenian Church playing a major role in inciting pogroms against Jews.

    Viewed both historically and strategically the seemingly strange relations between Israel, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, Armenia and the Kurds begins to look a little less confusing.

  • Steven E

    Turkey, I think, wants all the advantages of alliance with Israel, and all the advantages of lining up against Israel.

    Bismarck was able to balance a simultaneous German alliance with Russia and Austria, but that failed fairly spectacularly after he left the scene.

  • Kris

    WigWag@2: Good comment, after the pro forma second paragraph.

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