Thursday, January 1, 2009

View from Turkey: Gaza Siege Triggers Sensitive Dominoes in Region

ANKARA - Israel's air operation against Gaza is likely to have a domino effect in the region, and harm the peace efforts Turkey has sponsored for the last four years....

The escalated tension in the region is closely monitored by Turkey, who plays a proactive role in a solution of regional problems. The Turkish prime minister's top foreign policy advisor, Ahmet Davutoglu, sits at the center of such efforts. Davutoglu has recently been expressing his concerns that any rise in tensions in the Middle East could result in a "domino effect" which would impact on various regional issues and conflicts. The impact of the Israeli operations would not only be felt in but also in the wider Middle East as the region prepares to hold a series of elections. Here are some dates that would shape the region in 2009:

January 9:
Palestine: The negotiation mandate of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ends on Jan. 9. Abbas needs the approval of Hamas to extend the mandate.

February 10: Israel holds its general elections. Opinion polls show that the nationalist Likud Party is ahead of the Kadima. The recent operations show the hawkish camp has won regardless of who is in charge.

January 31: Iraqis go to the polls. The recent situation in Palestine would affect the elections in Iraq and strengthen the radical wing.

April: Parliamentary elections will be held in Lebanon. The Israeli operation would provide support to Hezbollah, eventually resulting in the radicalizing the politics in the country.

June: Iran holds its presidential elections. The recent situation is likely to boost Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has a tough rhetoric against Israel. Turkey's mediation efforts were built on the assumption that there would be no trigger for the domino effect.

The Israeli operation hampers Turkey's works to build an industrial zone in Gaza, ends the Syrian-Israeli talks, damages the sensitive balance in Lebanon, and reduces the chances of finding a peaceful solution to Iran.

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