Diplomacy of War, Diplomacy of Presidents

Izzet Enünlü

Izzet Enünlü



Diplomacy of War, Diplomacy of Presidents

Credit: Khanthachai C/Shutterstock

2024 seems to be an anxious year for the world's inhabitants. Elections in the US are destined to determine the future of NATO, hence world power balance. Several ongoing conflicts on the eastern border of Europe and in the Middle-East carry the risk of expanding beyond. Recently the ongoing cold war between Iran and Israel came close to transforming into a full scale war.

On April 1st, Israel struck the annex building of the Iranian embassy in Syria, killing several Iranian Revolutionary corps officers and militants of Hezbollah. Naturally the international community was worried of the consequences of  such a direct attack on the diplomatic mission of Iran. The attack was condemned and the US denied involvement and prior knowledge. However, Iran declared that they will retaliate.

The nature of the retaliation was a matter of great importance. A similar operation to Israel's diplomatic missions could prevent an unproportioned escalation. Alternately, an attack that comes directly from Iranian territory would switch Iran-Israel conflict that is conducted through proxies and intelligence operations to a total engagement. On the other hand, Iran had to show that they are able to protect themselves and their proxies, in order to maintain their authority. Moreover the concerns for the escalation were strengthened as  Iranian politics is dominated by hawkish politicians as the moderates have largely become ineffective.

However subsequent events showed that neither side was willing to mount the conflict out of proportion. On 13th of April, around midnight 170 drones, over 30 cruise missiles, and more than 120 ballistic missiles were launched from Iran. Although the attack was the largest stand-off attack in history, 99% of the threats were intercepted by the coalition of Israel, US, France, Britain and Jordan. Iran claimed to warn the US 72 hours earlier than the attack which the US denied. Also Iran declared that they concluded their retaliation to Israel and no further attack was planned if Israel did not escalate.

Even if there was not a prior warning, the region is well monitored thanks to the  early warning radar system against ballistic missile attacks in Kurecik, Turkiye. Except for the high speed ballistic missiles which can reach Israel in 15 minutes after their lunch, the rest were slow, needing at least two hours to reach their targets, so were easier to intercept.

The Iranian attack caused negligible damage and most probably even did not intend to. However, the Israeli defence coalition spent about one billion USD to neutralise an attack that cost about 100 million USD. The importance lies not only on the cost but the endurance of the famous Iron Dome of Israel. Iranian attack efficiently showed that they can saturate the Israeli defences and may cause devastation.

Despite the warning of Iran, on April 19th, Israel launched a limited airstrike targeting an air defence site in Isfahan. Israeli response to the massive Iranian attack may be proportionally dismissable, but the base is close to the nuclear facilities and elegantly shows that Israel is capable of hitting key structure with precision. In other words Israel points out that size does not matter.

While the two rivals chose moderation in their response, the Turkish President accepted HAMAS leaders in Ankara and equated them to the Kuvayi Milliye - the Turkish Militia who initiated the resistance against the invading forces during the Turkish War of Independence. The comparison of the highly regarded Kuvayi Milliye to an organisation that attacks civilians created a controversy in Turkey. The Turkish President aims to be an actor in Middle-East politics and his comment  may reflect his ideological sympathy or a step to develop his image as the protector of the Palestinian rights.

On the other hand, recently, the rumours that the cancellation of the long awaited Biden-Erdogan meeting has leaked. The rumours are neither confirmed nor denied. When the rumours are combined with President Erdogan’s meeting with HAMAS leaders and his visit to Iraq to discuss a possible intervention to the Kurdish terrorist organisation (PKK), while the German President Steinmeier was in Turkey for an official visit, it could be that behind the doors some bargains are dealt. In the absence of the Turkish President, Steinmeier visited the Mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoglu and the Mayor of Ankara Mansur Yavas.

There are many topics to deal with between the sides. Turkey needs the Western investments to improve its economy. F-35 planes are denied to Turkey by the US and also Germany is reluctant on the matter. On the other hand, the EU needs to contain illegal immigrants before they enter its territory and the EU-Turkey migration deal allows the flow of migrants to Greek islands back to Turkey in return for financial and political concessions.

Be it in the battlefield or during the Presidents’ visit diplomacy still working on the 4th month of 2024. Let’s hope it will continue this way for the rest of the year.

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