ANKARA | Sun Nov 14, 2010 7:04am EST
(Reuters) - A U.S.-led plan to build a missile defense shield against Iran will test Turkey's conflicting allegiances, forcing it to find a way to satisfy NATO allies without alienating new partners to the East.
Frustrated at "waiting at the gates" of the European Union, and out of step with long time ally the United States on some key foreign policy issues -- notably regarding Iran -- Muslim Turkey has charted an increasingly independent course.
NATO member states will discuss at a summit in Lisbon on November 19-20 whether to build the shield, aimed at countering ballistic threats from the Middle East, in particular Iran.
Turkey, the only Muslim state in NATO, doesn't want any NATO agreement on the shield to identify as potential enemies either fellow Muslim states Iran and Syria, or Russia. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan also wants the shield to cover all Turkish territory and seeks guarantees command would stay within NATO.
Though Turkey is committed to NATO missions such as Afghanistan, it is no longer the compliant partner that it was during the Cold War and cannot be taken for granted by the West.
"Five years ago Ankara's choice would have been predictable," said Semih Idiz, a Turkish foreign policy analyst.
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