Mediterranean tension is Ankara’s “crisis-of-the-month’’ - analyst

The current tension in the Mediterranean is Ankara’s  “crisis-of-the-month,’’ a strategy employed by the Turkish government to distract from the country’s economic crisis and provide content to pro-government media, Middle East analyst Seth J. Frantzman said in the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

Turkey’s track record shows that it usually conducts military campaigns against those who are unable to shoot back, halting when it reaches a red line, Frantzman wrote, but “It’s unclear where that red line may be in the Mediterranean. Ankara is trying to find out.’’

Tensions are soaring in the eastern Mediterranean after Turkey on Monday issued a navigational communication, Navtex, stating the seismic research vessel Oruç Reis would be conducting surveying activities south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo. Turkey also began on Monday two days of naval exercises southeast of Kastellorizo and Rhodes island. 

Turkey’s latest research mission is one “with a lot of military muscle behind it,’’ the analyst wrote, while highlighting Greece’s frustration with NATO’s “hands-off approach.” 

Athens is preparing to call for an emergency meeting of the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council over the matter, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported on Tuesday.

“The current crisis at sea looks to be a lot of posturing that will give Ankara’s pro-government press and state media something to write about,’’ Frantzman said.

The lack of check on Ankara’s militarist decisions allows for Turkey to conduct weekly military drills or “appear to be challenging Greece, Egypt, Iraq, the PKK, EU, NATO, Syria, the US and basically everyone,’’ he wrote. This, in turn, makes the Turkish government seem important.

Ankara uses Syrian rebels to fight for it in the war-torn Libya and Syria, and only conducts military campaigns against those who cannot retaliate, such as  Kurds in northern Iraq, Frantzman wrote.

But when faced with an Egyptian red line in Libya or Russia in Syria, Turkey generally stops, he added.