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      Iranian Threats Prompt Turkey to Shelter under NATO Umbrella

      The rivalry between Turkey and Iran over influence in the Middle East has prompted a Turkish decision to join NATO's missile shield.
      By Amiel Ungar
      First Publish: 9/4/2011, 7:42 PM

      As Israel's relations with Turkey deteriorate, the United States is apparently getting ready to maintain two parallel systems of defense relations with Turkey and Israel instead of combining the two.

      This can be seen in the Turkish agreement to take part of the NATO anti-defense missile shield.

      Negotiations over Turkish participation have apparently moved ahead as a result of growing friction between Turkey and Iran.

      The specific cause of tension has been the disagreement over the Assad regime's brutal suppression of demonstrations in Syria.

      The general cause of tension has been the growing competition between Iran and Turkey over influence in the Middle East. While Iran has maintained relations with the Sunni Hamas and Al Qaeda, part of the Iranian ideology has been fueled by the hopes that Iran could now reverse Shiite Islam's subordinate position to Sunni Islam and the Muslim world.

      Iran's support for Assad is in part repayment for the fact that Hafiz Assad was the only major Arab leader who supported Iran during the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s. There is also the religious element in that the Alawites of Syria are considered heretics by the majority Sunnis just as the Shiites are considered heretics by the Sunnis.

      While there have been some reservations expressed in Iran over the wisdom of total backing for Assad, a decision has been made as the daily Kayhan, the mouthpiece for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s, editorialized: “Those targeting Syria are, in fact, targeting the Islamic Revolution in Iran.”

      The paper also warned specifically: “Turkey must know that the Islamic Republic will use all means at its disposal to ensure the failure of plots against Syria.”

      Hence Turkey, hitherto reluctant to support sanctions against Iran over the nuclear program, has become alarmed and is seeking NATO protection. The main sticking point was whether information would be shared with Israel. The Turkish government objected to any such sharing.

      Both Iran and Turkey have used anti-Israel policies and rhetoric to promote their penetration of the Middle East. Turkey could not allow Iran to contend that Turkey and Israel were engaged in military collaboration.

      The US according to the Wall Street Journal, apparently provided the assurance as U.S. officials told Turkish counterparts that “the U.S. has a ‘separate and robust’ missile defense relationship with Israel, where the U.S. based its high-powered X-Band radar in 2008 to bolster Israel’s missile defenses|.

      Russia officially does not object to Turkish participation. Turkey, as opposed to Poland and the Czech Republic, is geographically distant from Russia's European heartland.

      Russia, however, is opposed to an anti-missile system if it will not be a joint NATO-Russian system and the Turkish system means that the missile shield has gained further traction.

      This has prompted Russia's ambassador to NATO, Dimitry Rogozin, to announce on Friday plans to travel to Iran later this month to discuss its ballistic missile program and the U.S.-led missile shield in Europe.

      "We, in turn, are interested in getting clarification from the Iranian side over its plans to develop missiles which are often referred to with alarm by our U.S. and European partners," Rogozin said.

      Russia is belatedly realizing that the missile shield will go ahead irrespective of her objections unless the Iranian missile threat is neutralized.