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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Obama Blunders, Turkey Miscalculates, and Hamas Again Fires Rockets Into Israel

On Thursday, nine rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza slammed into southern Israel. Not surprisingly, the matter went unnoticed by the international press, and there were no calls for investigations from Obama, Erdogan or Ban Ki-moon. Why the renewed outburst of terror? What does any of this have to do with Obama and Turkey?

Obama's diplomatic outreach to the Muslim world has failed, and he and his staff know it. Visits to Egypt and Turkey together with Obama's New Year's ("Nowruz") messages to Iran yielded no tangible gains. Quite the contrary: his outreach signaled weakness to Turkey and Iran (remember, this is the Middle East), and Ahmadinejad and Erdogan felt free to pursue their respective agendas.

However, unbeknownst to Erdogan, the tide has turned in Washington. Obama did not expect Congress to balk at the destruction of the American alliance with Israel, which has the fervid support of millions of Christians throughout the United States. Obama also did not take into account the plummet in his popularity from a mishandled economy, the Gulf oil spill and the war in Afghanistan. With midterm elections four months away and many Democrats struggling to hold onto their House and Senate seats, it was indeed time for "change". Netanyahu is due back at the White House on July 6, and this time I am told Obama will not show him out through the back door in the middle of the night.

Erdogan, however, ignored all the signals coming from Washington, and in cooperation with a "charitable" organization linked to al-Qaeda, he co-sponsored the Gaza Flotilla, knowing full well that the goods in the ships' holds were unneeded and that many of the travelers were seeking martyrdom.

At first, the Gaza Flotilla seemed to have accomplished its objective: babies were named "Erdogan" in Gaza, and new "aid" flotillas were planned from Lebanon, Iran and Europe. His head spinning from his new stellar status on the Arab street, Erdogan took what appeared to be the next logical step to promote self and Turkish regional aggrandizement: opposition in the U.N. to U.S. sponsored sanctions against Iran.

But reality has begun to set in for Erdogan. As reported by Desmond Butler of AP, Turkey is now being hammered by the U.S.:

"The United States is warning Turkey that it is alienating U.S. supporters and needs to demonstrate its commitment to partnership with the West.

The remarks by Philip Gordon, the Obama administration's top diplomat on European affairs, were a rare admonishment of a crucial NATO ally.

'We think Turkey remains committed to NATO, Europe and the United States, but that needs to be demonstrated,' Gordon told The Associated Press in an interview this week. 'There are people asking questions about it in a way that is new, and that in itself is a bad thing that makes it harder for the United States to support some of the things that Turkey would like to see us support.'

Gordon cited Turkey's vote against a U.S.-backed United Nations Security Council resolution on new sanctions against Iran and noted Turkish rhetoric after Israel's deadly assault on a Gaza-bound flotilla last month. The Security Council vote came shortly after Turkey and Brazil, to Washington's annoyance, had brokered a nuclear fuel-swap deal with Iran as an effort to delay or avoid new sanctions."

And as acknowledged by İlhan Tanir in an opinion published by Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review:

"Did the AKP sincerely believe that it could push Washington to take a position against Israel, dump it if necessary and support the Turkish position all the way? It appeared throughout the recent weeks that Ankara indeed believed that, through building its own '9-11' rhetoric to convince the Obama administration.

It can be safely argued then, that whoever is in the charge of reading Washington on the side of the AKP government, read Washington upside down, and picked up the mistaken insights.

* * * *

Ankara cannot afford to misread Washington any longer."

Although it took some time, Turkey now understands the gravity of its misstep, and a meeting scheduled for July between Hezbollah leader Nasrallah and Erdogan has been canceled.

And that's not all: Following successful talks between Tony Blair and Netanyahu (see:, pressure was brought to bear upon Lebanon's Saad Hariri, and the "Women's" flotilla out of Tripoli remains stuck in port.

So what seemed like an enormous PR coup for Hamas has already been forgotten by a world consumed with the World Cup. Israeli readiness to permit luxury consumer goods into Gaza through the Erez crossing is only apt to destroy Gaza's tunnel industy via Egypt and eliminate Hamas tax revenues imposed upon these goods.

Why then the renewed rocket fire and mortar shells on Thursday? With the flotilla gambit now dead in the water, Hamas is reverting to what it knows best: terror aimed at Israeli civilians.


  1. "Not surprisingly, the matter went unnoticed by the international press, and there were no calls for investigations from Obama, Erdogan or Ban Ki-moon." Were there calls for investigation from Netanyahu? I did not see any mentioning about it even in JPost. So, what do you expect from Ban Ki-moon? Israel misses important PR opportunity!

    Otherwise, this is a great and hopeful post. Thank you, Jeffrey.

  2. Hi Marina,

    I could write an up-close book about Israel's failed PR over the past decade . . .

  3. "Philip Gordon:...makes it harder for the United States to support some of the things that Turkey would like to see us support..."

    is code for Kurds (especially in Iraq), hosting Hezbollah (cancelled), Turkey's membership in NATO, Armenia, and Azerbaijan (Hillary will be in Erevan, Baku, and Tblisi July 1-5). Also, Erdogan's sidebar with Obama at G20 may be cancelled.

    Just like Erdogan overplayed 'the Israel card', Hamas is now overplaying their temporary popularity surge. Even Turkey's Army chief smacked Erdogan on his Israel-PKK conspiracy propaganda, and then sent Turkish military to Israel to resume training on those Heron predators.

    Give some credit to the U.S./Israeli efforts for Hariri's backing down on Lebanese flotilla.
    The US backed Israel's statement that any flotilla from Lebanon or Iran would be enemy ships. Also, Israel did a nice job getting Cyprus and Malta, even Greece, on board.

    Overlooked in the media is Ban Ki-Moon's investigation of Sri Lanka's nasty civil war, and now calling for a UN investigation into the Kyrgyzstan 'riots'. It may be a too-slow, but real, effort by Moon to shift the UN's gaze to the rest of the world.


  4. David P Goldman on "Fantasia: Obama’s embrace of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan threatens both Israel and the Palestinian Authority"

    and, hope you are now reading Hudson-Ny blogposts, where Khaled Abu Toameh extends his voice to America, Hagai Mazuz exposes Palestinian textbook and media content, and Harold Rohde's "Turkey in Crisis" delves into same questions here


  5. JG: most welcome.
    PLEASE take on Tom Friedman, who seems to have suffered an aneurysm before writing this:


  6. K2K,

    Just read Friedman and was horrified.