The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Of patrons and clients? Turkey, Israel, Iran…

July 19, 2006

Forgot to pass this along earlier. More good news.

The Turkish army may move into northern Iraq if violence by Turkish-Kurdish guerrillas continues, officials said yesterday.

Such a move could put Turkey on a collision course with the United States, which has repeatedly warned against unilateral action in Iraq.

Actually, it isn’t as grim as it seems.

But the Turkish government is facing increasing domestic pressure to act after 15 soldiers, police and guards were killed in fighting with the guerrillas in the past week.

“The government is really in a bind,” said Seyfi Tashan, the director of the Foreign Policy Institute at Bilkent University in Ankara. “On the one hand they don’t want things to break down with the United States. On the other hand, the public is crying for action.”

Diplomats cautioned that the increasingly aggressive Turkish statements were probably aimed at calming public anger. But they also increase pressure on the US and Iraq to act against the rebels, who are based in northern Iraq’s rugged Qandil mountains.

This kind of dynamic is very typical of asymmetric relationships in international politics: the government of the “client state” becomes, in effect, a broker between its great-power “patron” and domestic interests. The question, of course, is how the various parties navigate that relationship and how each can maximize their leverage. I’ve just started to explore these issues–I’ve still got a book manuscript to finish–but I’ll offer some preliminary thoughts at some point.

Which leads to three pieces of news.

First, Israeli troops have launched a “small” incursion into Lebanon.

Second, Israel now accuses Iran of orchestrating the kidnappings to “divert attention from its nuclear program.”

Third, speaking of asymmetric relationships in world politics, the New York Times reports that:

The outlines of an American-Israeli consensus began to emerge on Tuesday in which Israel would continue to bombard Lebanon for about another week to degrade the capabilities of the Hezbollah militia, officials of the two countries said.

Then, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would go to the region and seek to establish a buffer zone in southern Lebanon and perhaps an international force to monitor Lebanon’s borders to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining more rockets with which to bombard Israel.

American officials signaled that Ms. Rice was waiting at least a few more days before wading into the conflict, in part to give Israel more time to weaken Hezbollah forces.

I’m still not sure what to make of evidence like this in terms of what it says about the structural relationship between the US and Israel.

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.