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RT: Israel Used Turkish Military Base in Latakia Attack

yakhonts

Yakhonts anti-ship missile system in action

UPDATE I (July 20th): It’s important to note that Mossad chief Tamir Pardo made an official visit to Turkey on June 10th in which he met with his Turkish counterpart.  The purpose of this trip must have been to coordinate the Israeli use of the Turkish military bases for this attack.  Israel destroyed the Latakia depot on July 6th.

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This story keeps getting weirder and more interesting: RT (formerly Russia Today) reports based on a “reliable source” that Turkey allowed Israeli air-force jet bombers to use one of its military bases to attack the Syria port of Latakia, where the government had stored Russian-made Yakhonts anti-ship missiles.  Israel believed the armaments were destined for Hezbollah, which would use them in the next war in Lebanon to neutralize Israel’s naval forces.  For a discussion of the weapons system and the role it might play in such a battle, read this report.

Given that this story keeps getting curiouser and curiouser, I believe the story is very possibly true.  So now we have to ask ourselves a number of questions:

Why would a Turkish government nursing a deep grudge against Israel for killing 9 of its citizens in the Mavi Marmara massacre, all of a sudden turn around and lend an air base for an attack on a third country?  Further, why would Turkey cooperate with Israel in attacking Syrian missiles destined for Hezbollah?  Turkey has no quarrel with the Lebanese militant group.

There are several answers.  Turkey is opposed to the Assad government and anything that will weaken it may cause Turkey to relax its former animosity toward Israel.  Also, Hezbollah has escalated its involvement in the Syrian conflict by sending thousands of its fighters to capture Qusayr.  This would be a way for Turkey to make the Islamist group pay a steep price for its intervention.  It would be yet another way for both Israel and Turkey to say to Assad that he faces a looming alliance among former enemies who are now united (at least covertly) in their opposition to his rule.

Second, if Israel wanted to attack Syria without violating its airspace it could just as easily have flown north from Israel to a point west of Latakia and attacked from the Mediterranean.  Why did the Israeli air force feel it needed to attack from Turkey?  The answer may lie in the fact that attacking from Turkey would allow Israel to attack from the north rather than the west.  Syria would not have expected an attack on Latakia from the north and therefore might not have defended against it.  This would give the Israeli attackers an element of surprise.

If this account is true, it proves that Middle East relations are based far more on shared interests than on principles.  In other words, pragmatism and even cynicism is the rule of the day.  Turkey, which trumpets its dedication to the Palestinian cause and its implacable opposition to Israel’s Occupation, can do the unthinkable and allow Israeli military forces to use its sovereign territory to attack an enemy.  So much for the notion of Muslim solidarity.  And so much for the Islamist criticism of Muslim states (Saudi Arabia, etc.) that allow non-Muslim military forces (U.S., etc.) to attack fellow Muslim states, thereby betraying Islam.

For Erdogan, the opportunity to bloody Assad’s nose trumped all those considerations.  The other problem with Turkey’s decision is that it will give Israel the impression that since Turkey granted access to its military bases, it will also fold regarding its support of the Palestinians.

Alternately, we may see that Israel retracts its opposition to paying $1-million to each of the families of the victims of the Mavi Marmara attack.  Israeli capitulation on that score may signal a quid pro quo for Turkey’s help in attacking Latakia.

One way to gauge this is by whether Erdogan follows through on his commitment to visit Gaza.  He was supposed to come last month.  But the turmoil in both Egypt and Turkey caused a delay.  If he does visit Gaza Israel should know this alliance is extremely tactical and targeted at a very narrow range of issues.  If he doesn’t, then we’ll know that Israel has succeeded in co-opting yet another opponent of Occupation.

Finally, it’s interesting that the source for this report is a Russian media outlet.  Remember that Russia’s missiles were targeted and destroyed in Israel’s attack.  Vladimir Putin has not responded in any way to this.  Alex Fishman, in yesterday’s Yediot, took his silence as a confirmation that Putin is at heart nothing but a cynical weapons merchant who doesn’t care what happens to his weapons as long as he’s paid for them.  As with so much of what he wrote in that article, I think it’s a crock.

Israel’s attack is an affront not only to Hezbollah and Assad, but to Russia as well.  Putin is not the disinterested arms dealer Fishman makes him out to be.  There will be an accounting for this act of aggression by Israel.  The only question is where and when and under what circumstances.  If RT’s reporter learned her information from a Russian intelligence source, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

I am trying through DC and Turkey-based journalists with U.S. or Turkish military-intelligence sources to confirm this story.

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{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Oui July 15, 2013, 1:50 AM

    Thanks again for timely reporting. I just viewed the RT story and was much surprised by its implications.

    RT did make use in the video to criticize the Turkey-Israel Alliance and add a bit of Kremlin propaganda. What about the Dolphin story and cruise missiles?

    From this linked article there were multiple strikes at the facility near the village of Samiyah, south/east from Latakia – Israel Defense: analysis of the satellite photography.

    As for ME politics, the Muslim Brotherhood has been frozen out of Egypt’s leadership with the military overthrow of Morsi. The axis Egypt-Hamas-Turkey-Qatar is facing defeat. Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait have asserted regional power in opposition to the MB regimes. If the story is true, Erdogan must have been desperate to turn the chances for Assad’s opposition rebel forces after the fall of Qusayr. With the military confrontation in recent weeks between FSA and the Al-Nusra and ISIS fighters, Erdogan is losing the battle.

  • Oui July 15, 2013, 2:24 AM

    NATO’s Eastern Anchor, 24 NATO bases in Turkey

    Most likely an Israeli sortie out of NATO’s Incirlik base:
    Located eight kilometers (five miles) east of Adana, Turkey’s fifth largest city, and 56 kilometers (35 miles) from the Mediterranean Sea, is an important regional logistical air base of the alliance.

    IAF doing the dirty work for western powers who have been handtied by International Law and the veto from Russia and China at the UN Security Council.

    Israel’s military command has been invited to join in training exercises at its NATO Allied HQ command centers in Germany and/or Turkey. NATO Air HQ at Ramstein Air Base becomes the single Allied Air Command.

    • Oui July 15, 2013, 2:33 AM

      Report: Turkey still barring Israel from major NATO exercises – The Atlantic Council on Dec. 23, 2012

      Israel to join NATO activities amidst Turkey tension – Jerusalem Post on Dec. 23, 2012

      “The officials said the approval had come as Turkey’s request that NATO station Patriot missile batteries along its border with Syria was granted, leading them to assess that NATO was using the deployment as leverage to induce Ankara to thaw its relations with Israel.

      Israel is a NATO partner and has accordingly participated in seminars, exercises and training as part of that status. But over the course of the past year, as new NATO activities were planned for cooperating countries such as Israel, Turkey objected to their going forward, according to Israeli sources.”

    • Oui July 15, 2013, 2:42 AM

      IAF squadron in Italy for joint exercise with NATO partners
      (YnetNews) Nov. 2, 2011 – The Israeli and Italian air forces were joined by the Dutch Air Force for aerial maneuvers which included 17 Israeli fighter jets, three “Oryx” refueling tankers and a radar plane.

      Just crossing another boundary?

  • Bob Mann July 15, 2013, 2:59 AM

    FYI, from Ynet:

    Rusiya Al-Yaum, a Russian TV news channel broadcasting in Arabic, reported that the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has denied reports that Israel used a Turkish military base to launch one of its recent airstrikes against Syria from the sea. Davutoglu noted that the information is baseless.

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4405204,00.html

    And from Hurriyet Daily News:

    “Turkey will neither be a part nor a partner of such ‘attacks.’ The ones who claim this want to damage Turkey’s power and reputation,” he said. “It is out of the question that Turkey and Israel are part of a joint military operation.”

    http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/israel-used-turkish-base-in-syria-attack-claim-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=50716&NewsCatID=359

  • Blabbaer July 15, 2013, 3:04 AM

    It would be naive to think that this was done bilaterally between Turkey and Israel. The USA has more skin in this game than any other. I would speculate that the US leaned on Turkey to facilitate this action. The US has many points of leverage against Turkey.

  • Fred Plester July 15, 2013, 4:19 AM

    The advantage of attacking from the North wouldn’t simply be on of “surprise” but possibly of a low-level approach through favourable screening terrain. The very first version of the Popeye missile was designed to be launched from quite low level and then climb higher to dive onto the target, while the launch aircraft stayed low. I’d always thought that a submarine attack for any target in Syria made little sense other than as a sort of demonstration. The first version of Popeye was also far too big to be launched from the F16 and it took a lot of revision to make it work from an F15, so the original launch platform was the Phantom. Retired by the IDF but still operated and supported in Turkey. The more recent Popeyes are based on a 1,000lb rather than a 2,000lb warhead, to make them launchable by an F16 or similar aircraft. If you wanted to ensure the destruction of P-800 missiles in a store designed to limit the risk of explosions propagating from one munition to another, the biggest possible warhead would make the most efficient trigger for secondary explosions. Taking an Israeli Phanthom out of mothballs for one special raid might be an instructive exercise for a Turkish ground crew, perhaps preparing them to operate similar weapons from their own Phantoms. Just a thought.

  • Elad R July 15, 2013, 6:20 AM

    I see no operational need for such a joint venture. Both Tratus and Latakia are within the operational range of Israel’s Airplanes (F16’s & F15’s) and flying the profile mentioned in the article, Re: Delivering a BVR (beyond visual range) attack using guided weapons is possible even if the airplane flies out of it’s Israeli air bases. As for your notion of the surprise attack for the north….on June 22nd 2012 the Syrian forces shut down a Turkish air-force F4, so i think it’s safe to assume that they are watching that direction – north – as well. Besides Israeli jet’s can mount an attack from that direction flying out of any Israeli air base, without penetrating the Turkish airspace. In Short great story of a Russian with an extreme developed imagination.

    • Oui July 15, 2013, 2:58 PM

      After some maneuvers, the Turkish F-4 Phantom jet approached Syrian coastline from the West and was shot down approx. 1 km before reaching land. NATO and US intelligence have mapped the Syrian air defences, I’m sure.

      • Elad R July 15, 2013, 3:21 PM

        Of course they did, the point is that Syria’s northern border is a boarder of war, with many fire incidents between the Syrian and Turkish army.(http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57586876/turkey-returns-fire-after-shots-fired-from-syria) Assuming anyone attacking from over the Turkish border will gain any type of surprise because “Syria would not have expected an attack on Latakia from the north and therefore might not have defended against it” is extremely naive.

        • Richard Silverstein July 15, 2013, 11:14 PM

          @EladR: There is a huge difference between an artillery bombardment and an air assault. Turkey has never launched an air attack on Syria nor have I heard that Syria has used its air force to attack Turkey (though there have been artillery exchanges). So Syria would not have expected an Israeli attack originating in Turkish airspace & this would give Israel an element of surprise in its attack.

          • Elad R July 16, 2013, 10:17 AM

            Huge difference ? So your claim is that if side A will
            attack Side B using infantry alongside a border in turmoil, Side B
            shouldn’t be expecting an Armored Corps/Artillery/Air Force
            involvement ? Since the rebels logistic backbone is in turkey,
            allot of Syrian military & intelligence resources are
            focusing on Turkey. Doing anything less would be negligence on
            behalf of the Syrian Armed forces (and their Iranian’s command) and
            i don’t think they are.

  • Oui July 15, 2013, 6:58 AM

    An interesting analysis with the open option for Israeli-Turkish alliance in a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

    RT: Israeli Strike on Syria Launched from Turkey – The Jewish Press by Yori Yanover

    “(July 15, 2013) – Relations between Turkey and Israel were strained until last March, following the Turkish flotilla incident off the coast of Gaza. But the two countries have normalized their relationship after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Erdogan. Turkey is providing training grounds for French and American sponsored anti-President Bashar al-Assad rebels, before helping them infiltrate into Syria.

    Anyone reading today the report on this level of cooperation between the Turkish military and Israel (not necessarily with the prior approval of the Turkish prime minister) has to be thinking about the same cooperation against another common enemy – Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Since there may already be an operational IAF base inside Turkey, it would be an excellent place for Israeli attack planes to launch their attack against the Iranian nuclear facilities, as well as to stop there for refueling on their way home.”

    IAF squadron in Italy for joint exercise with NATO partners – YnetNews on Nov. 2, 2011

    .
    Recent controversy over the Israeli military presence in Azerbaijan:

    A Forward Attack Base (JCPA)
    Iran’s progress in its nuclear program and the failure of the nuclear talks with the West have raised Tehran’s threshold of sensitivity about a military attack on its nuclear facilities, and it increasingly fears that Azerbaijan may serve as a base for such a strike. Notably, a 2012 article in Foreign Policy quoted senior U.S. intelligence officials saying Azerbaijan would serve as a base for attacking Iran or for rescue operations after an Israeli attack.

    And the common interest of NATO partners with Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan are the pipelines for transport of natural gas and oil from the Caspian Sea basin. The Kurdish pipeline from Kirkuk has been added to the wanted list of EU nations. Solving the problem with the Assad regime remains high on the To Do list.

  • lysias July 15, 2013, 8:14 AM

    If the air base in Turkey is İncirlik (outside Adana), people should know that this is also a base much used by the U.S. Air Force. I have read allegations that the U.S. stocks nuclear weapons at that base.

    • Oui July 15, 2013, 9:22 AM

      In my own backyard at Volkel Air Base in The Netherlands. Just recently Dutch politicians were still arguing about the TOP SECRET location of 10-20 US warheads. Turkey has between 50-90 nuclear warheads at the location Inçirlik Air Base.

  • Probably Just Misinformation July 15, 2013, 3:08 PM

    Nobody is considering the obvious?

    Israel doesn’t much like when the spotlight is turned on it, much preferring to go BANG! on something and then pulling that arrogant “What? Me?” smirk.

    Well, spreading a cock’n’bull story about Israeli jets flying out of Turkish airbases (Why, exactly? Doesn’t Israel have its own tarmac?) ensures that this gets yet another run in the media, much to Israel’s annoyance.

    As far as Putin is concerned he wouldn’t care if the story is true – or even plausible – the important thing is to spread a rumour that keeps the story in the news, because doing that makes Israel uncomfortable.

    After all (as Richard has already noted) Israel doesn’t NEED to use Turkish airbases to launch a raid of this kind. So why would the Israelis WANT to overly-complicate the operation, since doing so adds risk.

    Just go with the K.I.S.S. principle: scramble from Ramat David Airbase, launch the missiles from way out at sea, then scoot back home.

  • paul July 15, 2013, 9:18 PM

    I don’t see Erdogan visiting Gaza any time soon. AFAIK Hamas are supporting the Brotherhood uprising in Gaza due to the military taking out 90% of the tunnels. So it would be a political faux-pas to visit any time soon. As for Turkey allowing Israel to use its territory… you could be correct and Israel could capitulate on the Mavi mara Issue. Though it would be interesting if Kerry Played a hand in convincing Turkey to Play ball. America is trying to convince Bibi that they are serious about Israels security and by getting a hostile government to allow the use of its sovereign land for its defense could give bibi political leverage to enact a semi-construction freeze which would restart negotiations.

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