Tuesday, September 02, 2014


Features

Iran and Turkey: Friends Today, Rivals Tomorrow?

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad flashes the V-sign for victory as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan looks on after Tehran signed a nuclear fuel-swap deal in Tehran on May 17.
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad flashes the V-sign for victory as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan looks on after Tehran signed a nuclear fuel-swap deal in Tehran on May 17.
By Robert Tait
It is the friendship Western policymakers wish they could have prevented: Turkey -- secular, Western-leaning, and a key member of NATO -- drawing close to a resurgent theocratic Iran whose nuclear program and geopolitical ambitions present a full-frontal challenge to the established international order.

Suspicions that Turkey is abandoning the Western orbit for a closer alignment with its Muslim Middle Eastern neighbors were reinforced last month when the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, flew to Tehran to sign a nuclear fuel-swap deal -- brokered along with the Brazilian president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva -- aimed at blocking further UN sanctions against Iran's uranium enrichment program.

Coming on the back of flourishing trade ties, the move -- ultimately unsuccessful -- was seen as a manifestation of Erdogan's growing affinity for Iran and its president, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, whom he had previously described as "a very good friend." The image of a new Tehran-Ankara axis was further enhanced by Israel's deadly interception of a Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla on May 31, which led to the deaths of nine Turks and drew international condemnation. The incident created the impression of a united Turkish-Iranian front against Israel and in support of Hamas, the Islamist group that runs Gaza.

The growing warmth is a far cry from the frosty, mutually suspicious relations that endured for years between the two neighbors following the 1979 Islamic Revolution which ousted the Western-backed shah from power in Iran.

Yet, according to some analysts, there may be a sting in the tail.

Trigger Suspicions

Far from being the gateway to a long-standing alliance, Turkey's new engagement with the Middle East and vocal support for the Palestinians could trigger Iranian suspicions and eventually restore the formerly competitive relationship between the two countries.

Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born analyst with the MEEPAS think tank in Israel, believes Turkey's new Middle East-centered foreign policy -- which includes rapprochement with Iran's close ally, Syria -- is a threat to Tehran's desire to be the Islamic world's dominant power.

"Both countries are rivals for the same title, which is leader of the Islamic world," Javedanfar says. "And the Iranians have a set of economic and political advantages to offer any country who wants to side with them, and the Turks have another set of advantages which are far more than the Iranian ones.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul (right) meets with Ahmadinejad in Istanbul on June 7.
"I can best describe it as the Turkish government being able to offer business class seats to any potential customer who wants to ally itself with Turkey, and the Iranians can offer a coach or economic class. I think the majority of people are going to be attracted to the business class rather than the other one, unless they have to."

If that assessment comes as a relief to Western diplomats fretting over Turkey's supposed defection, there may be a sobering corollary. Javedanfar fears the results of any renewed Iranian-Turkish rivalry will be greater efforts by the leadership in Tehran to acquire a nuclear-weapons capability.

"When it comes to economic power, when it comes to military power, when it comes to diplomatic position, Iran is inferior to Turkey," Javedanfar says. "So they are going to look at areas where they are superior and the only other one where they can gain an edge over the Turks, one of the very few areas, is the nuclear program.

"Turkey is not a nuclear power. Therefore, Iran would have even more of a reason and an excuse to become a nuclear power in order to gain an edge over their Turkish rivals."

Likely Launch Pad

The prediction may seem far-fetched, yet hardly more so than an article published earlier this year by the Jahan News website -- believed to be linked to the Iranian intelligence services -- that identified Turkey as the likely launch pad for a future war against Iran. Written by Farid Al Din Hadad Adel, grandson of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the article asked: "Which country can hope for the entry of its European and American friends into the arena of war, if it enters into war against us? The answer is clear. Turkey is the only option for the advancement of the West's ambitions."

The Islamic regime has a history of suspiciousness towards Turkey. In 2005, the Revolutionary Guards closed Tehran's newly built Imam Khomeini Airport for "security reasons" because a Turkish company had been awarded the contract to run it. The airport was only reopened after the contract was canceled and awarded to an Iranian consortium. In the same year, the Turkish mobile-phone operator Turkcell was stripped of a $2 billion contract giving it a stake in a private Iranian mobile network.

Murat Bilhan, vice chairman of the Istanbul-based think tank TASAM and who served as a Turkish diplomat in Iran, believes continuing Iranian disquiet over its Western neighbor has recently surfaced in its rejection of Ankara's offer of mediation in relations with the United States. Even the recent nuclear swap deal may have been accepted only because of Brazil's role, he suggests.

"Iran feels itself a little split off from the Western connections because it's in the hands of Turkey," says Bilhan. "They feel rivalry, as a competitor, and they would not like Turkey to be stronger than Iran. That's the feeling in Iran, in Iranian statesmen, in Iranian decision makers, policy planners, and such.

"So Turkey, for Iran, is, in a way, not a threat but something to get along [with], to share the same geography, not to create any problems, but not to be overwhelmed by."

Afraid Of Iran

A further source of potential friction could be Turkey's increasing closeness to Arab states in the Persian Gulf, most of which fear Tehran's nuclear activities, Bilhan says.

"There are some contradictions in the Turkish position in the sense that Turkey should be aware that the Arab nations in the Persian are too much afraid of Iran and they just feel threatened by the Iranian existence and Iranian ambitions in the region, especially their nuclear ambitions," Bilhan says. "So when Turkey supports the Iranian position, it might contradict its own Arab policy because the Arabs have enmity towards Iran."

Turkish officials argue that Turkey's geography and shared Muslim heritage make it uniquely qualified in the Western alliance to win Iran's trust. In private, they admit that negotiations with the Islamic regime can be fraught -- citing the Iranian political system's diverse power centers. They also say the two countries still have important differences, notably over Iraq.

"We are not defending Iran, we are looking after our own interests" one Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told RFERL. "We don't want to see a nuclear Iran in the military sense at all. Our aim in that is the same as other countries. It's just our approach that's different."

He added: "On Iraq, we don't see eye-to-eye with Iran at all. We want an all-inclusive government in Iraq made up Shi'ites, Sunnis, and Kurds, whereas Iran only wants a Shi'ite government. We are not always in parallel with Iran on many issues.

"But I don't think they should see us as a rival. The fact that we can talk to almost everyone, in contrast to them, means Iran should use us to try and get back into the international community. That's what we are trying to do."
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Orhan ertugruloglu from: the Netherlands
June 22, 2010 05:44
Turkey and Iran have neither fought nor re drawn their mutual borders since the 1639 Treaty of Zuhab. This fact is commonly used in explaining why Turkey has an extremely consistent and constant policy towards Iran. As Turkish Historian İlber Ortaylı correctly said " There are no two civilizations with so many common values. The Turkish language has tracesof Persian and its literature has traces of Persian literature . Turks and Iranians are twin sblings that don't know each other." The Safawid Dynasty was established by the Turkomans from Anatolia.. The trade between the two countries exceeded ıı billion dollars. Turkey's energy dependent on Iran, as well as Russia,.Plus Turkey is not worried of Tehran's nuclear activities. Turks think they can one way or another co-exist with a nuclear Iran..

by: Michael Ali from: Amerika
June 22, 2010 08:59
Irans posistion is severed ties with great s.. so as not to go down the pipe
with it. So not likely ties with any tied to great s.... Tis not 1+1 chosen to be 2
in Turkey?

by: Zoltan from: Hungary
June 22, 2010 10:09
Again the old song...

Why do not the analysts learn that the 21st century produces different solutions than it was before.

Talking about 'balance of power' and 'rivalry' not always reflects current reality. That's a pity that these terms are still in use in the Middle East.

Unlike in Europe where cooperation prevailed over hostility and rivalry.

Today France and Germany do not rival each other but cooperate in an unusual style which was never seen before in history.

And cooperation seem to prevail not only in Europe but all over the world as every power have learnt that hostility products less value and profit than cooperation.

Cooperation is even more attractive if you face the same challenges and enemies. (Friendship is made by common enemy)

So I expect much more a long standing Turkish-Iranian cooperation instead of a renewing rivalry.

As Turkey faces refusal from Europe so they need to looking for new friends. While Iran wants to break out from international isolation. Therefore they perfectly fit each other.

Of course sometimes their interest could collide but common points are much more than differences.

By the way a Turkish-Iranian alliance is not less beliveable than the French-German alliance was 60 years ago.

The Turkis-Iranian alliance can be the beginning of the 'Union of the East' the Middle Eastern alterego of the European EU.

Anyway I do not oppose such.

Cooperation should be based on common cultural background. And Turkey has much more in common with Iran and the Middle East than with Europe.

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
June 23, 2010 18:54
The article and commentaries simce reflect reality,
Except the pownding for Russia by Zoltan conclusions.
Union of Turks, Iranians and Russian Empire bestiality?
To crush for Russian Empire Caucasian World? - Collusion.

Turkey and Iran had peace, but they not that simmilar, Borgio!
Both were part of Caucasian World and Media United Nations,
Before Persian hords invaded Media in South-East of Georgia,
Instigated by Babilon Neanderthals - for plandering invasions.

Opposite Turks that filled empty space of the falling Visantine,
As Arabs and Mongols started destruction of Caucasian race,
Instigated by the same Neanderthals. - Than Turks fluctuated,
Corrupted by Visantine, while enlightened by Georgian advise.

Also geneticly they are quite different - Iranians were Persians
From wastnes of Persia mixed with South-East old Georgians
And with instigatting Eastern Shumer-Babilonia Neanderthals
That were inflaiming Persian conquering genocidal ambitions.

Opposite Turks locals from Turkestan mixed with old Medians
And being wise and loyal members of Media's United Nations,
Later with lost Georgian Kingdoms throught Troy and Anatolia
And Visantians, but not with Babilonians - even in 1001 nights.

That makes also the opposite substance of choices of history.
Not-unlike the Ibero-Caucasian Civilization arround Caucasus
For milleniums, till instigated by Messopothamians treachery,
Now new Babilon rizing - Russian "nosiki-kurnosiki" oppusus.

Russia assembling evil, including Messopothamian Hisballa
That overbreeding Jordan, Palestine and Libanon - next Siria,
Including coarsed tribe of Gad, Sam and Pechenegy "Psuya",
To invade Georgia with A-bomb of Persia Messopothamians.

When USA bombed Iraq, threatening Third World's countries,
I advised to UN and on Internet that Superpowers new game
Underminded post WW2 agreements on anti-aircraft artillery.
Improve artillery - than Superpowers will not risk it for a dime.

Thought I also advised not to allow proliteration Russia did it.
Since 1954-56 Russia, Bechtel and the Quin made a pact,
Giving Russia uranium production technology plants,
To conquer-devide World with the Germans -fact.

As they could not destroy CIS nations right away,
Using blockade, subvert, invade and genocidize,
They added Muslim ambitions and A-bomb Iran
- Bomb Georgia and Israel for Russian Empire.

The end game, if Russia will get what they want,
Will destroy Caucasus, Iranians and Turks also,
Russia'll expand throught Indian Ocean shores,
Konstantinopol, Jerusalem Tegeran and Mecca.

Konstantin.


Most Popular