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Obama and ErdoganTurkish PM Erdogan allowed Syrian opposition leaders to meet in Anatolia and rescinded government sponsorship of the mammoth peace flotilla, which is ready to depart for Gaza. His estrangement from Assad, who has substantially quelled the rebellion, is illogical and reflects the fact that Assad flaunted all of Erdogan’s wise advice. Erdogan’s rapprochement with the Syrian opposition will worsen his relations with Iran, not so much because the ayatollahs care about Assad, but because they understand that one day Erdogan will aid the Iranian opposition, too. He aims to become the regional mediator, and when rulers spurn his good offices, he turns to the opposition, which clamors for recognition.

Erdogan’s support for the Syrian opposition and his withdrawal of support for the Gaza flotilla certainly reflect Obama’s bidding. The US president, too, has suffered heavy losses in the Middle East: his Egyptian gambit backfired as Islamists there surged to power, Gadhafi still stands tall, and the Saudis have abandoned the US altogether. And so Obama is partnered with the only regional ruler who still wants his company—Erdogan.

The Egyptian government has confirmed that the Rafah Crossing will be opened this week. The US pressure therefore did not bear fruit, as the Egyptian junta nods obediently to Uncle Sam but does nothing against the will of the Islamists.

In practice, the Rafah opening changes very little because Gazan terrorist groups were able to smuggle at will through some 800 tunnels. The problem is mostly a PR problem, as the Israeli government cannot pretend any longer that arms smuggling to Gaza is somehow limited.

The massive militarization of Gaza is not necessarily bad. It will turn Hamas into a mirror of Hezbollah, whom Israel deters instead of policing. With thousands of rockets aimed at large Israeli cities populated by influential leftists, our next war with Gaza will be similar to the war with Lebanon: massive destruction of infrastructure regardless of civilian casualties. Such a strategy is far cheaper than the current approach to Gaza.

Netanyahu lacks the guts to re-occupy Rafah to prevent arms smuggling to Gaza.

May 2011
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