Israeli Cairo Embassy Attack, Turkish Saber Rattling Point to Middle East Turmoil

One can tell that a revolution in a Middle Eastern country has started to become unhinged when mobs attack an embassy. In the 1970s Iranian revolution it was the American embassy in Tehran. In the 2011 Egyptian revolution, it is the Israeli embassy in Cairo.

The storming of the Israeli embassy was the culmination of riots that involved street battles between police and demonstrators. A mob tore down the security wall surrounding the Israeli embassy and then stormed the building, beating an Israeli diplomat, and then tossing Hebrew language documents out the windows. The Israeli ambassador and his family have been obliged to flee.

The incident is the latest development in the turmoil that has wracked the Middle East for most of 2011, which has featured the overthrows of governments in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, a revolution in Syria, and attempts by an Islamist government in Turkey to assert itself in the region.

Most ominously is a vow by the Turkish government to deploy warships to protect shipments of what are called humanitarian supplies to Hamas ruled Gaza. Israel, who believes those shipments are cover for weapons, has imposed a blockade around Gaza. Turkey has suspended security ties with Israel and has formed agreements with the military junta now ruling Egypt. If a new flotilla, protected by Turkish ships, attempts to run the Israeli blockade, the potential for a naval conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean is very real.

A strong American diplomatic response, backed up with economic leverage and military power, is indicated if the situation is to be defused without it deteriorating into a full scale conflict. Unfortunately the Obama administration seems currently incapable of exerting much influence of any kind in the Middle East.

The prospect of two nominal American allies, one a NATO member, facing off against another American ally while chaos spreads throughout the region could not have come at a worse time for the Obama administration, facing as it does a tough reelection fight. The parallels to the events of 1970-80 cannot be more obvious. Unless something is done and soon, 2011-12 could be worse than anything that happened more than 30 years ago.

Sources: Israeli PM condemns embassy attack in Egypt, Diaa Hadid, Associated Press, Sept. 10, 2011

Turkey: Warships will back next flotilla , Reuters, Sept, 9, 2011

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