Turkey’s misgivings about NATO plans to build ballistic missile interceptor system are clouding relations between Ankara and its Western allies.
The shield, a reworking of the Star Wars program developed during the Reagan era in the United States, has been described by its chief proponent, the United States, as a means to thwart potential missile strikes carried out by 'rogue' states. It would cover North America, Europe and Israel.
Turkish concerns about the plan center on the way its NATO partners are explicitly describing the shield with Iran in mind. The United States and Iran have long been at odds over Tehran’s nuclear program. Ankara is no more eager than is Washington to see its neighbor and rival for regional hegemony build nuclear weapons. But recent years have seen a vast improvement in both trade and political relations among Tehran, Ankara and other countries in the Middle East. Turkey does not want to put those improving ties at risk by being seen as taking NATO’s side.
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Nicolas Birch specializes in Turkey, Iran and the Middle East.