Turkish warships harass Israeli freighters. Israeli missile boats off Cyprus
Increasingly assertive Turkey is setting the scene for clashes in the eastern Mediterranean. Since Thursday, Sept. 29, Turkish warships have been harassing Israeli merchant vessels in waters off Cyprus.
They come close enough to establish wireless communication and caution the Israeli vessels they are in contravention of international law and ordering them to change course.
But the situation is getting explosive enough to spark a major incident.
This is very true. We all realize that the region is a powder keg and it will take very little to ignite it. Turkey is playing a dangerous game of brinksmanship right now.
Over the weekend, Israeli Air Force planes circled near the sites of the incidents...
At the same time Israeli missile ships sailed close to Cyprus's Exclusive Economic Zone waters, where the Houston-based Noble Energy began drilling for natural gas on Sept. 19 in the face of Turkish threats. The rig is situated 160 kilometers south of Cyprus adjacent to Israel's Leviathan gas field.
"Outside" observers are also watching this situation:
Western naval sources tracking the new Turkish and Israeli deployments reported Saturday, Oct. 1: "Turkey and Israel are in a constant muscle-flexing contest in the eastern Mediterranean. They are metaphorically shaking fists in each other's faces and raising the risk of a confrontation that could quickly veer out of control."
Cyprus is also under direct threat from Turkey:
Also Saturday, Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias had this message for Ankara: "I wish to underline to all those who attempt to question this right of the Republic of Cyprus: our sovereign rights are non-negotiable."
And below we see another indication that this entire scenario is intended to increase tensions:
Five days ago, the prime ministers of Greece and Turkey, George Papandreou and Tayyip Erdogan talked by phone. And four days ago, Adm. James Stavridis, Commander of NATO forces in Europe, flew to Ankara directly from Israel for talks with Turkish leaders.
Turkish harassment of Israeli cargo vessels began after those interchanges, indicating that the Erdogan government has no intention of meeting exasperated US and NATO efforts to cool rising tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.
One has to wonder what Turkey's end game is.
Certainly, as seen in previous reports they want to be seen in a leadership role for Islamic goals in the Middle East, and the primary goal, in general terms, is the destruction of Israel.
How this brinksmanship - now taking place in the Mediterranean - plays into the bigger picture is anyone's guess.
But one thing is certain - tensions are rapidly escalating in the epicenter and with all parties on edge - armed to the teeth - that cannot be a good thing.
Stay tuned, as this situation is evolving on a daily basis, if not hourly.