[tweetmeme] The NATO meeting took place yesterday and resulted in the call for the immediate release of all civilians. More importantly, NATO is very unhappy and mixed about all this. Because NATO is a mutual defense pact, it is possible that the alliance will be legally forced to defend Turkey from Israel. Keep in mind that Israel is not a member of the group, but often engages in joint military exercises with NATO. Given the hesitation of many of the NATO members to engage militarily after Iraq and Afghanistan, could a military confrontation (with the Americans backing Israel) lead to the end of the alliance? From Craig Murray (my emphasis):
What I was being told last night was very interesting indeed. NATO HQ in Brussels is today a very unhappy place. There is a strong understanding among the various national militaries that an attack by Israel on a NATO member flagged ship in international waters is an event to which NATO is obliged – legally obliged, as a matter of treaty – to react.
I must be plain – nobody wants or expects military action against Israel. But there is an uneasy recognition that in theory that ought to be on the table, and that NATO is obliged to do something robust to defend Turkey.
Mutual military support of each other is the entire raison d’etre of NATO. You must also remember that to the NATO military the freedom of the high seas guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is a vital alliance interest which officers have been conditioned to uphold their whole career.
That is why Turkey was extremely shrewd in reacting immediately to the Israeli attack by calling an emergency NATO meeting. It is why, after the appalling US reaction to the attack with its refusal to name Israel, President Obama has now made a point of phoning President Erdogan to condole…
But what kind of mutual support organisation is NATO when members must make decades long commitments, at huge expense and some loss of life, to support the Unted States, but cannot make even a gesture to support Turkey when Turkey is attacked by a non-member?
Even the Eastern Europeans have not been backing the US line on the Israeli attack. The atmosphere in NATO on the issue has been very much the US against the rest, with the US attitude inside NATO described to me by a senior NATO officer as “amazingly arrogant – they don’t seem to think it matters what anybody else thinks”.
Therefore what is troubling the hearts and souls of non-Americans in NATO HQ is this fundamental question. Is NATO genuinely a mutual defence organisation, or is it just an instrument to carry out US foreign policy? With its unthinking defence of Israel and military occupation of Afghanistan, is US foreign policy really defending Europe, or is it making the World less safe by causing Islamic militancy?
I leave the last word to one of the senior NATO officers – who incidentally is not British: “Nobody but the Americans doubts the US position on the Gaza attack is wrong and insensitve [sic]. But everyone already quietly thought the same about wider American policy. This incident has allowed people to start saying that now privately to each other.”
Photo from Arirusila