Iranian-Turkish discord will not escalate into a clash

Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi

Published: Updated:

Early signs of discord between Turkey and Iran are looming on the horizon even though the two countries are allies in their aspirations to spread chaos and terrorism in the Middle East. Iran’s sectarian project is not much different from Turkey’s fundamentalist project, and despite their ideological rivalry it is clear to see that their combined efforts are aimed at undermining Arab stability and moderation.

This discord was triggered by a poem by an Azeri poet recited by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during Azerbaijan’s celebration of its victory in its conflict with Armenia in a war Turkey supported from the beginning.

The poem included lines about parts of Azerbaijan that fall within Iran, which stirred up Iranian anger due to fears of inciting separatism among Iran’s Azeri minority. This brings to mind the endless historic rivalry between Turkey, the heirs of the Ottomans, and Iran, the heirs of the Safavids.

What’s intriguing about this feud is how Iranian newspapers reported the issue last Friday. The Turkish ambassador was informed that the “era of territorial claims and expansionist empires is over,” as the Iranian Foreign Ministry said on its website, affirming that “Iran does not allow anyone to meddle in its territorial integrity.”

Who would have imagined that the Iranian regime, with its strategy of expansionism, hegemony and violating the sovereignty of neighboring states, would have the gall to denounce promoting wars and expansionist empires?

Some might say that history is bound to repeat itself which is why we must keep an eye on the collision of the region’s two expansionist projects.

Read more: Iran and crossing all the red lines

However, despite the current escalation, it is very likely that this dispute will be settled in the near future since the two countries are not ready for a real clash to break out between them. Both regimes have their own expansionist agendas that are in line with their shared aspirations of occupying countries and spreading chaos and terrorism.

Yet, we cannot deny the fact that certain political incidents could succeed in awakening the dormant strife and animosity between the two colonial expansionist powers, albeit under contradictory slogans.

On a daily basis, tens of thousands of coronavirus cases are being recorded among Iranian and Turkish people.

Both countries are recording extremely high coronavirus infection rates compared to other countries around the world; however, the two regimes seem to be more concerned with delusions of building empires and spreading their influence even as they face strict international sanctions whether in terms of the US’s sanctions against Iran or Europe’s plan to impose additional sanctions against Turkey.

Sanctions have negatively impacted the Iranian regime, and will negatively impact the Turkish regime in the future, unless these regimes abandon their expansionist schemes and start respecting international laws and the sovereignty of other states by refraining from meddling in their internal affairs.

The nearly collapsed economies of the two countries should be enough to prove the failure of their expansionist and hegemonic policies. While the Iranian regime has been ostracized for decades, Turkey seems to be heading in the same direction, unless it manages to find a way to unshackle itself from these futile policies.

The Turkish lira tumbled to a record low, and it is threatened to collapse even further if US-European sanctions are imposed on Turkey. If these sanctions pass, they will ensure the complete failure of all Erdogan’s policies, and will strengthen the position of his political opponents inside Turkey, especially with public support in Turkey for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP party reaching an all-time low, and internal discontent taking a more firm shape among the Turkish people, their parties and their politicians.

Read more: Turkish support for President Erdogan’s AKP party hits all-time low: Poll

Despite all the progress made by the United Nations and the countries that support the Libyan people, Erdogan is still under the impression that Turkey is the strongest colonialist power on the ground in Libya, thus he summoned Fayez al-Sarraj to Turkey in an attempt to influence the course of the ongoing negotiations. It seems that Erdogan has dismissed the fact that internal economic collapse signals the fall of a country long before the fall of its colonies.

A special UN-backed tribunal issued its final ruling against Salim Ayyash, an active member of the Iranian-affiliated Lebanese Hezbollah, finding him guilty of the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

While the international court did not directly condemn “Hezbollah” in order not to be accused of politicizing the case, this still indicates that the party may be to blame for all the political assassinations that pervaded Lebanon after the assassination of Hariri, during the course of Hezbollah’s long history of imposing its authority on the Lebanese state. It seems that Hezbollah’s terror activities are being revealed in many countries around the world, which represents a real blow to one of the strongest Iranian militias in the region.

Turkey’s S-400 missile deal with Russia has resulted in a serious rift within NATO, and it is the direct reason for the US sanctions imposed against it. Furthermore, Turkey’s greedy expansionist policies represented in its attacks on the sovereignty of the Cypriot state and the Greek state, the two member states of the European Union, is the direct reason for the European sanctions imposed on Turkey.

This, along with Turkish neo-colonialism, supporting terrorism, mobilizing militias by providing terrorist mercenaries, and spreading chaos in the Caucasus region, are among the many nefarious acts that Erdogan seems to be entangled in, and will have to answer to.

Next month marks the first anniversary of the assassination of the region’s terrorist mastermind, Qasem Soleimani, which coincides with the American transition period. Some analysts predict that the Iranian regime is likely to commit an ill-advised move in an attempt to scare the upcoming US administration just as it scared the Obama administration since the Iranians seem to believe that a Biden presidency is a mere continuation of the Obama era.

However, Trump has made it clear that he will be ready to face any threat. The sight of the Saudi fighter jets escorting the American B-52s heading to the Arab Gulf carries a clear message of strength.

While the expansionist strategies of Iran and Turkey make them vulnerable to international sanctions, international inaction gives them false indications that they can keep on adopting these policies without punishment or accountability. It is safe to assume that this insistence on undermining international laws can have major consequences for the two regimes.

Both the Iranian and Turkish regimes have pinned their hopes on the new US administration, believing that they will find common grounds for negotiation just as they did during the Obama presidency; however, they are highly mistaken in this regard.

They are under the impression that they will be able to wield their influence, dismissing the fact that history cannot repeat itself especially with all the new variables and developments that have come into play in the region, the most important of which is the vigilance of Arab countries in the region and their strict stances against these two expansionist regimes.

Arab countries have proven that they are capable of overcoming the political challenges posed during the Obama era, and thus they will be capable of facing any new challenges.

Finally, Tehran summoned the Turkish ambassador, and Ankara acted in kind; a mutual step to address the discord that arose with regard to Azerbaijan. This can be seen as a calculated escalation, to avoid a real clash between the two expansionist projects.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

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