Turkey, the Belarusian Hijacking, and the Implications for NATO and the Middle East

Last week, the former Soviet Republic of Belarus briefly captured international attention when it compelled a passenger flight traversing its airspace to land—so that Belarusian police could arrest an expatriate, dissident journalist who was onboard, along with his girlfriend. Aykan Erdemir notes why observers of the Middle East should pay attention:

[Last] Wednesday, NATO issued a statement condemning the “forced diversion” and declared its support for “measures taken by Allies individually and collectively in response to this incident.” According to Reuters, Turkey blocked punitive steps for which Baltic allies and Poland had pressed. Ankara also prevented calls for additional Western sanctions on Belarus and the release of political prisoners there.

This is not the first time that Erdogan has rushed to Lukashenko’s aid. In August 2020, when the European Council called Belarus’s disputed presidential election “neither free nor fair” and refused to recognize the results, Erdogan was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Lukashenko, joining other authoritarian leaders, including Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

Collusion between Ankara and Moscow to undermine NATO is nothing new. When Turkey signed a missile deal with Russia in 2017, it became the first NATO member to purchase big-ticket military hardware from Moscow. Since then, Turkey also became the first NATO member that the United States has sanctioned [for] significant transactions with the Russian defense or intelligence sectors.

Read more at FDD

More about: Belarus, NATO, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey

 

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy