A Turkish defence ministry source announced on 23 August that Turkish F16 jetfighters had been radar locked by a Greek S300 air defence system stationed on the Greek island of Crete, adding that harassing Turkish jetfighters by radar-locking them and directing missiles at them proved that Greece had activated the S300 batteries which was tantamount to an act of aggression according to the rules of engagement stipulated by NATO.
Against the background of continuous Greek provocation, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened Greece, saying: “Your (Greece’s) occupation of Aegean Sea islands does not bind us. When the time comes, we will do what is necessary. As we say, all of a sudden, we may come suddenly one night” (UPI 03/09/22). Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Greece, “the bad neighbour”, was harassing Turkish forces in the Aegean Sea in various ways and was arming the Aegean islands in contravention of the Lausanne and Paris treaties. Commenting on what happened, he stressed that his country’s land, sea and air forces “would not be lenient in responding to any harassment” (UPI 03/09/22)
In order to perceive the dimensions of the Greek provocation and the threats launched by Erdogan, it is imperative to revisit its circumstances, as it is remarkable that it came after America had resumed reviewing the file of selling F-16 jetfighters to Turkey, with the presence of a Turkish delegation in America for this purpose, and after the American offer to sell jetfighters to Turkey in exchange for her forsaking the S-400 defense system, and in conjunction with Greece’s amendment of a defence agreement with the United States allowing American forces to reach Greek military bases and expand their military build-up there. This places the incident within the context of exerting pressure on Erdogan regarding his relationship with Russia and reminding him of his membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the consequent commitments and positions towards Russia, especially since it came a month after the tripartite summit in Tehran that brought Erdogan, Raisi and Putin together, and since Erdogan accused America and the alliance of being the first to have supported “terrorism” in Syria, and demanded the United States to get out of east Euphrates. It also came with Erdogan’s endeavour to return to a policy of “zero problems” with the countries of the region, reformulate regional alliances and energy projects in the eastern Mediterranean and secure Israeli gas to Europe.
As for the second dimension, related to Erdogan’s statements in particular, it is to intimidate Greece and emphasise his standpoint on the conflict with her over the islands and borders, which could have ignited a war between the two countries with French incitement of Greece, had it not been for the American intervention to broker a deal through German Chancellor Angela Merkel in July 2020, which Greece later violated. Also included in this dimension is Erdogan’s harnessing of the incident for media consumption in the context of meeting the challenge of the upcoming elections and playing the nationalist chord, as he always does in every election, in addition to the fact that Greece’s harassment serves Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in his upcoming elections as well, especially as he derives his popularity from hostility towards Turkey; he also tends to exploit the nationalist factor and he spoke of the loss of Izmir and Western Anatolia 100 years ago, describing it as a “massive loss.”
Both men face upcoming elections in the middle of next year as well as economic and financial upheavals and an energy crisis. This is in addition to the fact that the event coincided with American pressures on Turkey regarding the commercial violations committed by the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD), which received a letter of reprimand from the United States, and some of its men were even subjected to investigations by US intelligence on Turkish soil. Macron took advantage of this point to raise the issue of Turkey’s distinction from other countries by allowing her to deal with Russia and making her the only channel and mediator with Putin during his meeting with French ambassadors to the world.
It seems America was compelled to exert pressure on her men in TÜSİAD to nullify France’s pretexts for opening channels of communication with Putin, or justifying the rejection of energy-related sanctions on Russia. This is despite the fact that America has turned a blind eye to them throughout the previous period, considering that they are among her men and forces in the deep state, which she harnesses to fluster Erdogan. TÜSİAD, which is headed by Orhan Turan, is the most famous and economically and politically influential association in Turkey; its members number 4,500 companies which pay more than 80% of the state’s tax income, in addition to controlling 50% of the GDP and approximately 85% of Turkey’s foreign trade, and it employs about 50% of the workforce in Turkey. It is led by major industrial companies in Turkey including Koç Holding which is one of the 500 largest companies in the world according to Forbes Magazine.
TÜSİAD has a historical record of political influence starting with its campaign against the government of Bulent Ecevit (1979) for its refusal to deploy America’s spy planes on Turkish soil during the Cold War, then its support for the minority government headed by Süleyman Demirel, then its financial and media support for forming the coalition of the Motherland Party and dissolving The Welfare Party (Necmettin Erbakan), especially since it had an active role in establishing the Turkish Independent Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (MUSIAD) which is a rival to TÜSİAD.
Accordingly, the Greek provocations of Turkey do not deviate from the American means aimed at exerting pressure on Turkey and warning Erdogan against undermining American interests, especially since the event came amid Turkey’s threats to launch a new military operation against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria. America is also exploiting the Greek fear of Turks to contain Greece and scale down her dependence on France in the confrontation with Turkey, especially since Greece has had bad relations with Germany since the outbreak of its financial crisis at the start of the last decade.
However, Greece’s aim from harassing Turkish jet fighters involves asserting her sovereignty over the Turkish islands in the Aegean Sea, which were plundered from the Ottoman State after her defeat in World War I, and given to Italy, then to Germany and then to Britain after World War II. Then Greece inherited the islands from Britain on condition that they remained de-militarised in accordance with the treaties concluded with Turkey, and Greece’s target is to change this legal status, namely, abolishing the provision not to arm the islands, establishing Greek sovereignty over them and arming them despite Turkey. There is also a European-American complicity to besiege Turkey as a precaution against Turkey’s exit from NATO for any reason.
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