In September 2011, America engaged Turkey in missile defense by providing Ankara with the same type of X-Band radar system that Israel was given in September 2008 by former U.S. President George W. Bush. The deployment of that radar system into Turkey, later this year, will be located in the eastern part of the country, close to the Iranian border.
These radar systems are designed to alert technicians of incoming enemy missiles. The U.S. Joint Tactical Ground Station (JTAGS) in Europe is to be the data hub for all U.S. supported European and Middle Eastern radar systems, including those in Romania, and in a U.S. Aegis ship in the Mediterranean.
However, the current U.S. agreement with Turkey has become problematic, according to Scheinmann. "The Turks are saying that what they get from the radar site in their country will not be shared with Israel. This is supposed to be a European-wide missile defense system, but, they have maintained their strong objection to anything Israeli. If there were an Iranian missile launched towards Israel, they would not allow the sharing of information from their radar to help Israel."
What this means, Scheinmann explained, is that an incoming Iranian missile that would target Israel would probably go over Syria, south of the Turkish radar site. It would be easier for technicians to track the precise location of the missile in milliseconds because they would be seeing the side view of it from Turkey, rather than a frontal view from Israel. But Turkey is now planning to hinder such cooperation. This inhibits protection for Israel from Iran's ballistic missile arsenal.
Furthermore, Turkey has said it will not identify Iran as the primary target of its missile shield, nor will Turkey provide Israel with real-time information gleaned from its radar. In the event that one of Iran's missiles is launched against Israel, Turkey could share radar data with Iran. This would allow Iran to fine-tune its target.
Earlier this year, as the relationship between Israel and Turkey deteriorated both diplomatically and militarily, Israeli officials voiced concerns about sensitive military information that Turkey may have already shared with Israel's enemies. Turkey's refusal, now, to participate with Israel on missile defense, and the possibility that Iran will take advantage of this, has Jerusalem leaders even more worried.
Efraim Inbar is a professor in political studies at Bar-Ilan University and the director of its Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies. Inbar recently spoke to this writer and offered his advice for Israeli leaders.
"Don't trust the Turks with anything now," he declared. "We want cooperation with the U.S., but the Americans want to continue with Turkey, and we will try to convince them to limit this cooperation that concerns Israel ... I think that the Americans are closing their eyes. Some of them do understand the problematic stance of Turkey. And, others simply ignore it. Like an ostrich they put their head in the sand." Inbar believes that eventually Washington will listen to Jerusalem and limit ties with the current Turkish government.
Mr. Scheinmann offered his assessment on the American-Turkish relationship in regard to missile defense. "The U.S. ought to be concerned about what is going on in Turkey and how it affects American policy ... The behavior of the Turkish government is antithetical to American policies in the region. Why did the U.S. pick Turkey? The system is a long way from being operational. Maybe, the Turkish government will look differently in five years' time." Scheinmann added that the U.S. didn't have a lot of options in the region in terms of where to place its missile defense system.
For those who say the Roman Empire and its rise and fall have no relevance today, I give you Turkey, the direct result of the fall of Constantinople.