Recep Tayyip Erdogan Is Taking Israeli Hostages to Distract from His Domestic Woes

On Thursday, an Israeli couple vacationing in Turkey was arrested on likely spurious charges of spying for the Mossad; the next day a judge remanded them to twenty days in jail while their case awaits a resolution. Israeli officials, meanwhile, have interceded with Ankara to have them released. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak writes:

In retrospect, the timing of the couple’s arrest is no coincidence. Just one month ago, . . . fifteen Palestinians were arrested by the Turkish intelligence agency for allegedly spying for the Mossad. . . . It’s no secret that over the years, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made a political fortune back home by starting crises with non-Muslim states, and Israel in particular. This is how he has succeeded in distracting the Turkish public from the burning domestic issues of the day. Erdogan knows all too well that public support for him today is at an unprecedented low: for the first time, he and his nationalist allies are not leading the “anyone-but-Erdogan” alliance in the polls.

The main reason for this shift is the lira’s depreciation against the dollar; [the exchange rate] reached an all-time low of ten liras to the dollar on the day the court extended the Israeli couple’s detention. Israel must therefore be very cautious and creative in order not to serve Erdogan’s propaganda interests. Jerusalem must do everything in its power to bring about the release of the innocent couple, including by making use of its ties in Washington and Berlin.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Israeli Security, 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