Turkey and Iran - Reuters
Turkish President Abdullah Gul, left, meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in Tehran in February. Photo by Reuters
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Israel reportedly accused Turkey of aiding Iran’s nuclear weapons program, according to notes from a meeting between American and Israeli officials from 2009 obtained by Haaretz.

The accusation was reportedly made by Foreign Ministry Director of Political Research Nimrod Barkan to French officials. The French in turn conveyed the remarks to the Americans ahead of strategic meetings between the U.S. and Israel in November 2009.

However, Barkan clarified to U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham that he had told the French Israel was concerned that “Turkey is ‘becoming a platform’ for Iran to evade financial sanctions,” according to a cable sent by Cunningham on November 19, 2009, but said nothing about nuclear weapons.

Barkan, according to the cable, said that Israel was “convinced that Iran is continuing to ship weapons to Syria via Turkish territory, possibly with the knowledge of Turkish authorities.”

According to the cable Barkan also charged that “Turkey is violating either UNSC or U.S. unilateral sanctions on Iran” in three areas. “These include new provisions to allow trade in Turkish Lira and Iranian Riyal through Iran’s Bank Mellat, which is subject to U.S. Department of Treasury sanctions, the opening of Turkish ports for the export of Iranian goods to Europe, and ongoing shipment of Iranian weapons to Syria via Turkish territory, mostly by rail.”

Barkan added that “most of the arms are intended for Syrian transshipment to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Barkan noted that the Israelis have raised all of these points directly with the GOT [Government of Turkey], beginning in June 2009, but so far to no avail.”

As a member of NATO any supply of weapons related material for Iran’s nuclear program would constitute an abrogation of sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.

Asking for help from the U.S.

A cable later that week detailed a November 15 meeting between U.S. and Israeli officials. The meeting was attended by Uzi Arad, then National Security Adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and head of the National Security Council, as well as Mossad, Military Intelligence and Foreign Ministry officials.

According to notes from the meeting, an official is quoted as saying that although “the Turks might be more responsive to U.S. pressure on [smuggling] than they have been to Israeli complaints.”

On the defense relationship between the two countries officials asses that the value of the military and military-industrial relationship is also declining for Turkey.

The official explained that “Turkey’s military capacity has improved and Turkey does not need Israel as much as it did 15 years ago. Israeli defense sales to Turkey are declining, and public sentiment in Turkey would probably prevent any major sales in the near future.”

Casualty of realignment

According to U.S. officials’ summary of the meeting, Israel believes “Turkey is engaged in an ongoing strategic realignment towards the Middle East and away from the West, and that the bilateral relationship with Israel is a casualty of that realignment. The GOI expects the AKP to continue to consolidate its power domestically through increased Islamization and control over Turkish institutions, including the military. The GOI also thinks that Turkey is drawing closer to Iran.”