Two years ago, Yossi Cohen—the director of the Mossad who has been praised for his role in making peace with the UAE and presided over such successes as the theft of the Iranian nuclear archive—commented that in the long run it may be Turkey, rather than the Islamic Republic, that poses the greatest threat to Israeli security and regional stability. Roger Boyes seeks to explain why:
“Iranian power is fragile,” [Cohen] reportedly told spymasters from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates, “but the real threat is from Turkey.” His point . . . was not that Iran had ceased to be an existential menace but rather that it could be contained: through sanctions, embargoes, intelligence sharing, and clandestine raids. Turkey’s coercive diplomacy [and] its sloppily calculated risk-taking across the Middle East posed a different kind of challenge to strategic stability in the eastern Mediterranean.
At present, writes Boyes, the biggest problem lies in Ankara’s attempts to exploit oil and gas reserves located beneath Greek territorial waters:
Greece and its many islands are preparing to exploit the deep-sea gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean basin and thus turn the sea into a prosperous Greek lake. The ambitions of the Republic of Cyprus have also drawn Turkish anger: it surmises that Turkish-dominated Northern Cyprus will not be able to share in the Greek bonanza.
The dream of mutually beneficial wealth returning to this corner of the Mediterranean . . . is shared not only by Greece and Cyprus but also by Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Italy and even the Palestinian Authority. Yet Recep Tayyip Erdogan views regional energy co-ordination as a project designed chiefly to marginalize Turkey. Here, then, is why the eastern Mediterranean has become such a volatile mess: it is torn between Erdogan’s drive to make Turkey into the indispensable Eurasian power [and] Russian opportunism. . . . Neither the European Union nor NATO seems ready to calm the waters.