“West Asia should follow example of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization”

“West Asia should follow  example of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization”

Israel’s aggression against Palestinian territories is continuing. Meanwhile, the chef of Shin Bet, one of three major security and intelligence organizations in the country, has voiced a new threat. Speaking to Israeli television, Ronen Bar, its director said Israel is determined to kill Hamas’s leaders “in every location, in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Lebanon, in Türkiye, in Qatar, everyone.” Bar added, “It will take a few years, but we will be there in order to do it.”

We asked retired Lieutenant General Ismail Hakkı Pekin about this statement. Pekin was also Head of Military Intelligence of the Turkish Armed Forces’ General Staff.

First of all, is this a realistic threat?

It is a realistic threat.

To begin with, it is usually the Mossad, the intelligence service for the exterior, that does such operations for Israel. They did this internationally in the past. And they have also pursued such operations in Türkiye in the past. For instance, they hijacked an Iranian nuclear scientist from Türkiye to Israel. They also used the Chechen in the past in such endeavors.

Mossad gathers human intelligence, and while doing that, they to make such operations. They have the according training, experience and network. Israel is capable to assassinate Hamas members in Türkiye.

But we also have a say in that, because Türkiye has also its counterespionage units, it has the National Intelligence Organization, the Ministry of Interior. There is a whole organization set up to prevent such operations. Hence, Türkiye is capable to stop such acts from occurring.

And Türkiye has other countermeasures at hand, including cornering Israel using the states and elements that surround it.

Can you explain that?

Firstly, trade between Türkiye and Israel is still continuing. Besides, there is the Ceyhan Pipeline that transports oil to the Mediterranean and to Israel.

Now, Türkiye is also facing economic pressure and threats. But security is important for us, and we have to answer these threats, although that might cause economic costs. We need to take more precautions.

You are referring to the visit of US Treasury official Brian Nelson to Türkiye, who criticized that Hamas raises funds here.

Of course, and more than that. There are senators in the US who criticize Türkiye for not applying sanctions on Russia. They demand that those US sanctions against Russia should also be applied against Türkiye.

More pressure can come in the context of Sweden’s NATO membership. I have to state clearly that this will continue like that, with pressure and threats all the time increasing. They will also question the humanitarian aid that Türkiye gives to Gaza.

What should be the path ahead for Türkiye in the conflict around Gaza?

All the countries are demanding continuously a ceasefire from Israel. What Israel wants is clear: It tries to expel the Palestinians from there.

Now, the force that can stop Israel is the United States. Hence, everyone is calling on Washington to stop this aggression. But the United States itself has blocked all parts of the Middle East. And the US has advanced all these Abraham Accords, and those previous ones with Egypt and Jordan, not to forget the meddling of Kissinger, the changing of regional balance by causing instability in Iraq and Syria…

As long as there is no balancing power, this will continue as it is.

How could such a balancing power be established?

We need to learn from the experience of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). In the 1990s and 2000, during the unipolar world, the US was meddling everywhere, toppling down presidents, invading countries and so on. Russia and China established the SCO to prevent Washington from doing that in Asia.

Countries of the region, such as Türkiye, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan and other need to come together and found an alliance – even if it is a temporary one. They need to show the US that it will lose West Asia if it does not stop Israel. They need to exercise pressure on the interests of the US.

Such an alliance might also pull Russia and China behind itself. Take for instance the new economic corridor announced in the last G-20, starting from India, passing through the Arabian Peninsula and Israel to head to Europe. If for instance, measures are taken to block such a corridor, that will cause an effect.

This is just an example. What is clear is that the United States needs to see its interests affected by a balancing regional alliance. This alliance does not necessarily need to apply military force to begin with. But it needs to show the US that it is losing West Asia. Washington needs to see that, if it continues current policy, it will be expelled from the region.

Of course, the main obstacle here is the region’s financial and technological dependency on the West.

Ismail Hakkı Pekin
Retired Lt. Gen. Ismail Hakkı Pekin is the former Head of Turkey’s General Staff Intelligence Agency between 2007-2011. He was born in 1951 in Iznik. He is married and is the father of two children.

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February 2024