(Security Analyst & RIEAS Research Associate)
Cyprus and Israel entered a new phase in their relations recently. The development of the Cypriot-Israeli relations is a fact that has been warmly welcomed by the people of the two countries, since their long lasting friendly views on each other. Even though the populations of the two countries shared a sympathetic view of each other, the state relations were never as good and close as they have become recently and this was mainly due to the close relations and military cooperation between Turkey and Israel since the mid 1990’s.
But all has changed recently because of two main reasons. First, the decline of Turkish – Israeli relations who received the fatal blow with the Mavi Marmara incident and second because of the energy resources recently discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean sea, paving the way for deep Cypriot – Israeli cooperation.
The Cypriot-Israeli relations have come a long way in the last two years in all fields but our aim is to stress the importance of intelligence cooperation between the two countries. First, it would be wise to describe the importance of intelligence cooperation between friendly countries and even allies.
Intelligence sharing and cooperation between allies is of utmost importance since it provides a wide range of sources and information pool and different analytical approaches towards a common goal. The nature of today’s threats which are increasingly asymmetrical require an all-encompassing ability to analyze information and detect threats.
By implementing such cooperation, both countries have lot to gain. For example if some information reaches the Cypriot Intelligence service concerning a terrorist group in the middle east, Israel will immediately gain this information since even if it is of no interest to the Cypriot national interests it is to the interest of Israel therefore Cyprus as an ally will provide the state of Israel with this information.
Having in mind the importance of intelligence sharing and cooperation between allies we should look deeper in the case of Cyprus and Israel as regional allies. The strategic importance of this alliance for Cyprus have been stressed out and became clear in all layers of Cypriot society, government and institutions. A crucial question never the less, is what has Israel to gain out of such an alliance.
Cyprus in its current situation, a deep financial crisis, virtually zero military capabilities and in desperate need for powerful allies may seem as powerless and in no position to offer substantially to such an alliance. The case is not quite so.
Apart from the fact that due to its membership in the European Union it has a lot to offer to Israel, virtually acting as Israel’s ambassador in the EU as quoted by Daniel Pipes, its good relations with most Arab countries and its intention to join the Partnership for Peace program and why not full NATO membership add to its significance.
The real gain for Israel would be to develop a culture of intelligence cooperation and sharing with the Republic of Cyprus. The potential of such cooperation would be tremendous and would include a multiplicity of gains. The proximity of Cyprus to Turkey and the fact that Turkish troops are stationed in the occupied areas of the island with constant intelligence flow back and forth (Turkey and the Turkish troops on the island as well as other institutions of the Turkish Cypriot puppet regime), Cyprus’ proximity to the Arab world with the current absence of hostile terrorist activity against the Republic of Cyprus and quite a few other factors constitute Cyprus fertile for the development of such an intelligence cooperation.
Both sides should work together in order to create an environment in which both intelligence communities could work together and share intelligence as well as analyses. This would give them the opportunity to further their cooperation and interaction in all other sectors while ensuring a common security environment which would serve both nations.
Of course, this will not come without obstacles. Apart from the traditional intelligence cooperation obstacles such as the reluctance of intelligence agencies in order to protect sources and means amongst others, come specific problems. The most important would be the difference between the structure and capabilities of the intelligence agencies of the two countries.
In order not to venture into in-depth analysis of the intelligence theory and methodology which would be required to overcome these obstacles it would be safe to state that any obstacle be overcome by good will, the desire for cooperation between the only two non-Muslim states in the region and the professional and committed actions from both sides’ professionals in the field.