The fact that the Turkish Armed Forces was represented by three brigadier generals at the Iran Armed Forces Day event in Ankara on the evening of April 19 was the surprise of the night for me; a high level of participation. Hurşit Ağırcan, Director General of Maps of the Ministry of National Defense, who is the most senior among them, emphasized the necessity of “working together with the countries of the region, especially the neighbors”. Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Farazmand, on the other hand, condemned the latest attack of Israeli soldiers in Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, after emphasizing that the Islamic Republic of Iran has not been destroyed for forty years despite the US embargoes.
A few hours before, President Tayyip Erdoğan called Israeli President Isaac Herzog on the phone and asked for measures to be taken against the events. He also mentioned this issue in his speech at the fast-breaking dinner given to the diplomatic representatives in Ankara on April 18, but the tone of condemnation was moderate compared to the previous ones. The news in the Israeli press that Al-Aqsa would be closed to Jewish visitors until the end of Ramadan was probably the result of these attempts by Erdogan (including UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres).
All happened on the same day
On that day, Turkish jets were conducting a military exercise with the jets that took off from the Truman aircraft carrier of the USA in the Eastern Mediterranean. Meanwhile, Turkey’s Blue Homeland (Mavi Vatan) sea-air exercise, which started on April 11 in the Eastern Mediterranean, Aegean and the Black Sea, and the “Claw-Lock” military operation, which started on April 18 against PKK targets in Iraq, were ongoing.
On the same April 19, US President Joe Biden held a video conference with a group of leaders to discuss sending more weapons and military supplies to Ukraine. The leaders of the UK, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy (ie the G7 countries), as well as the leaders of Poland and Romania, as well as the NATO Secretary General, the EU Commission and Council presidents attended the meeting. It is understood that the USA, the UK and Canada have decided to send more weapons to Ukraine, but the others have not yet responded.
The largest cyber warfare exercise ever organized by NATO started in Estonia on 19 April, again on the Ukraine Crisis. Turkey is also participating. In addition to the Cyber Command of the Ministry of National Defense, there are other elements from Turkey whose names have not been disclosed yet.
Warning of War in the Black Sea
And despite, Moscow spoke. Retired lieutenant general Yevgeni Bujinski, who is considered one of the informal spokespersons of Russia on critical issues, said that the entry of US ships into the Black Sea would be a cause of war even though Turkey has prevented this with the Montreux Convention until now. Bujinski is also known for his statements in 2017 that it is not possible to overthrow Bashar Assad in Syria by force, and that Russia will not allow it.
On the one hand, Moscow is increasing the financial pressure on the oligarchs, a significant part of whom are of Jewish origin, to take its side. It is known that Roman Abramovich, who is the most well-known among the oligarchs to the world public, and who anchored his yachts on Turkey’s shores Bodrum and Marmaris and shuttled between Israel-Turkey-Russia in this process, took part in the Russian delegation in the Russia-Ukraine talks held in Istanbul on 29 March.
Russia-Israel, USA-Iran axis
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is of Jewish origin and highlights this in his relations with the West. Russian President Vladimir Putin has always attached special importance to relations with Israel, mostly for financial reasons. Israel, on the other hand, wants to maintain its balance with both Russia and Ukraine, just like Turkey, albeit for different reasons. On the other hand, the transfer of the Jewish population in Ukraine to Israel from Turkey’s airspace has begun.
While these are happening in the Russia-Israel axis, there are also developments in the US-Iran axis. Nuclear talks, which were interrupted under the Trump administration, resumed under Biden. The signs are that the US embargo on Iran has been de facto eased. There is no pressure on Iran to join sanctions against Russia because of Ukraine. Although this situation does not please Israel, it is part of the balance changes brought about by the Ukraine Crisis.
It is true what Brigadier General Ağırcan said at the Iran invitation: in this period of crisis, where foreign policy is carried out on a knife-edge, Turkey has to work together with both global and regional actors by maintaining the balance in order to protect its own interests.