Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Israel Attack Exercise Violates Greek Airspace, Part II

This incident has garnered no coverage in the Western mainstream media whatsoever, and it deserves some more analysis than time allowed for in my post on it last Thursday, "Israel Attack Exercise Violates Greek Airspace."

Why would 25 Israeli F-15 and F-16 fighter-bombers, along with 7 Boeing 703 tankers, have flown in Greek airspace for 20 minutes? The tankers had permission. The fighters most emphatically didn't, and the incursion into the Aegean FIR was taken extremely seriously by Athens, which scrambled fighters. No public acknowledgement or apology has emnated from Tel Aviv, to my knowledge. So maybe Israel is trying to make more friends in the region, and it was their way of saying, "Hello!" But the location is interesting, because Greek and Turkish fighter planes collided over Karpathos last year, according to a Topix.net Forum discussion. Tensions must still be running a little high between Greece and Turkey over that. And that's exactly where the formation was flying.

Obviously, a serious breach of international flight rules of this magnitude would be yet another way to send a message to Iran, which lies outside the range of Israel's fighters; they would need to refuel just as they approached the limits of Iranian radar. Any strike wing sent to attack targets in Iran would need to carefully practice and coordinate with tankers for one or more airborne re-fills. (Tanker and multiple re-fuels would also allow Israel's planes to skirt Iraqi airspace, an important legal technicality regarding Iran's post-strike retaliation rights in Iraq.) I suspect going into the Aegean was a way to get a few missions for the price of one, giving the strike wing practice entering hostile radar and gauging enemy reaction times, gaining coordination in refuels under enemy observation, and doing some saber-rattling against their long-haired Persian bete noire. But there may have been a fourth or fifth bird downed with one stone.

Turkey and Israel have had a de facto alliance since 1996, and Israel has been sharing military technology with Turkey ever since. Turkey has in turn been awarding large military contracts to Israeli firms, amongst other things to modernize and upgrade its 360 F-16s. They have been on many joint training exercises. Whereas Turkey and Greece have a long-ongoing conflict over a partitioned Cyprus. Try going to a fashionable cafe in Athens today and asking for a "Turkish Coffee." You will be lucky to be merely ignored, and not have boiling water spilled into your lap. They don't serve Turkish Coffee. They serve "Greek Coffee."

So, it would seem possible that the Israeli fighters chose to violate Greek airspace at least partially as a favor to Turkey. This is pure speculation, but it adoesn't seem too much of a stretch to think that some of the pilots of the Israeli planes were actually Turkish. Israel and Turkey have common internal problems, and common external enemies, Arabic muslims, Syria, and Iran to name a few examples. Why not throw in an insult to Greece?

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