Missile Defense Shield: Much Ado For Nothing! – OpEd


By Bahram Amir Ahmadian

Turkey has the most powerful military force of the Middle East region, but Iran also has enough strategic and military capacities to pose a threat.

Since deployment of a missile defense shield in Turkey was brought up in 2008, the world has been in tumult. The United States as the world’s most powerful country is one side of this game. Although this is an American initiative, the main scene of action is located on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean; that is, Europe. The continent consists of small, but wealthy, countries which need a common defense mechanism due to their geostrategic weaknesses. Now that the European Union practically encompasses all European countries and the continent is run by the European Parliament in political areas and by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in military fields, a decision on the security tops the list of priorities. A collective decision, however, should be made on security as a common concern of the European countries.

The missile shield was, at first, supposed to be deployed in Poland as an Eastern European state and former ally of the Soviet Union in Warsaw Pact. The missiles were to be deployed in Poland with their accompanying radar system based in the Czech Republic. Both countries are quite close to Russia. Although they claimed that the missile shield was meant to avert a possible missile threat from Iran and North Korea, Russia voiced its vehement protest for many reasons. When the plan was put forth more seriously, Russia started its own threat though it finally used a more conciliatory tone. The US President Barack Obama then postponed the plan. Russians were very concerned because although Washington clearly noted that the system did not meant to pose a threat to Russia, Moscow alleged that the system was a direct threat to its security due to deployment in its neighborhood.

After some time, Russia got closer to the United States and thus heaved a sigh of relief after announcement of the suspension of the missile plan. The two sides reached a kind of reconciliation during that honeymoon period. Russia helped the United States to get rid of the former Libyan ruler, Muammar Gaddafi. Russia was at its worst and felt humiliated. The Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Puttin lambasted the Russian President Medvedev for having agreed to NATO’s attack on Libya. As a result, Medvedev will not run for another term in office and will, instead, support Putin’s candidacy. Russia, however, is once more concerned about redeployment of the missile shield (and its radar system) in Turkey. Grounds were laid for the establishment of the radar system during NATO’s Istanbul meeting. Turkey gave its conditional consent and noted that it would allow for deployment of the system if it were not used to threaten its neighbor, Iran. Ankara had already moved to remove Iran from the list of possible threats to NATO. Now, the stage is set. The following points summarize major reasons for the acceptance of the missile shield by Turkey:

  • Turkey pursues its own national interests;
  • Turkey is a NATO member and has to follow its decisions;
  • Under the existing conditions, Turkey has turned into an influential player in the most important regional and international issues;
  • Turkey has been able to play its part in the Arab Spring;
  • Turkey’s mediatory power in the region is on the rise;
  • In line with an Ottoman model of foreign policy, Turkey has reduced problems with neighboring countries to a minimum;
  • Turkey is now an energy supplier to Europe, thus, ensuring security of energy flow to Europe. It is also potentially capable of turning into a major energy hub in the future;
  • Turkey is part of NATO and nobody can blame it for taking part in collective security arrangements within that organization.

Europe has gotten rid of previous concerns about the missile defense system by deploying it as closest as possible to main sources of threat (presumably Iran and North Korea) on Turkey’s soil (which is neither purely Asian, nor European). The deployment site is in a mountainous region called Malatya in central south Turkey. It is close to Syria, Iraq and Iran and can offer good support for Turkey’s military base in Diyarbikir.

Iran’s concerns

It seems Iran’s concern and its warnings to Turkey and NATO to change their mind about deployment of the missile system will get nowhere. Of course, the development can be also viewed from a positive angle. Turkey is a neighbor of Iran and member of NATO. Since Turkey acceded to NATO in 1950s, there have been no problems between the two countries. Tehran and Ankara even collaborated within military arrangements of NATO at that time. Decisions in NATO are made on the basis of consensus among all members. Therefore, membership of a Muslim country like Turkey can have its impact on the organization’s decisions. Turkey has the most powerful army in the region, though Iran also enjoys its own strategic and military capacities to pose a threat. Iran’s ballistic missile capability can offer good protection to the country if and when its territorial integrity is at stake.

It seems that more complaining about deployment of the West’s missile shield in Turkey will not solve any problem, but will only increase tension in bilateral relations. Turkish diplomats are smart enough to heed concerns of neighboring countries, including Iran. Some media reports assert that the system provides necessary information to Israel ignoring the fact that Turkey’s relations with Israel are at their worst now. Therefore, such allegations cannot be true and are only meant to undermine bilateral ties. High level of economic relations between the two countries as well as cultural commonalities will surely prevent such a problem from causing serious challenge. Let’s not forget that when Iran was testing ballistic missiles, Turkey raised no objection. Turkey, in turn, expects no tension in bilateral relations as a result of this issue.

In contemporary world, NATO plays the part of an executive arm to the United Nations Security Council. High costs of providing security in the world as a result of high number of conflicts have rendered the United Nations unable of guaranteeing the international security on its own. Conditions following the Cold War have caused changes in the structure of international organizations. Since the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and NATO’s role in restoring peace, a new model has been adopted for the establishment and restoration of peace in points of conflict. Afghanistan was a preliminary case for the implementation of that model out of traditional geographical expanse of NATO. Libya offered another example. It seems a new way of thinking is taking shape in international relations which can be both an opportunity and a threat.

Bahram Amir Ahmadian
Tehran University Professor & Eurasia Affairs Analyst

Source: Khabaronline News Website
Translated By: Iran Review

Iran Review

Iran Review is a Tehran-based site that is independent, non-governmental and non-partisan and representing scientific and professional approaches towards Iran’s political, economic, social, religious, and cultural affairs, its foreign policy, and regional and international issues within the framework of analysis and articles.

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