IHH, the Turkish Islamic charity group that organized the flagship Mavi Marmara's participation last year, elected to sit this year's protest out, citing technical difficulties and an urgent need for humanitarian aid in Syria and Libya, where popular uprisings are confronting entrenched dictatorships.
But political pressure likely played a part. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, no doubt concerned about a further decline in an already deteriorating Israeli relationship at a time when the region is in turmoil, warned against participation this year – as did UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
US ship dubbed 'Audacity of Hope'
The United States, too, has been working to reduce the size of the flotilla, issuing a strongly worded statement saying it won't be able to provide consular services in Gaza or on the high sea and that the "Government of Israel has announced its intention to seek ten-year travel bans to Israel for anyone participating in an attempt to enter Gaza by sea."