Turkey’s rival Iran is Erdogan’s second home
Erdoğan’s reiteration of his love toward Iran is also a victory for Iran’s leadership
Iran “feels like a second home,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told his Iranian hosts earlier this week in Tehran, illustrating a prevailing sense of sympathy toward Turkey’s historic adversary reigned in among officials in the corridors of power in Ankara.
It was a troubling statement that was largely condemned back in Turkey by opponents and critics of Erdoğan. Ironically, the prime minister is a staunch supporter of Syrians rebels in fight against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, whose financial and military lifeline is Iran. Constantly doling out criticisms at home and calling critics of his Syrian policies “traitors,” Erdoğan didn’t publicly utter a single critical word about Syria during his entire trip in Iran, the main backer of his number one enemy Assad, and instead described the country as his second home.
It is a kind of home that Erdoğan expects ballistic missiles to rain in on his citizens from and agreed to host NATO’s radar station in a town close to Iran.
Erdoğan’s reiteration of his love toward Iran is also a victory for Iran’s leadership, who has successfully made Turkish government feel unusual sympathy to TehranMahir Zeynalov
Erdoğan’s reiteration of his love toward Iran is also a victory for Iran’s leadership, who has successfully made the Turkish government feel unusual sympathy to Tehran despite the two countries being rivals in the region.
Nowhere can one find a leader of a nation who portrays a country as their second home where the senior officials of that country frequently direct threatening statements towards.
Why love your enemy?
Most supporters of the Turkish government would dismiss a notion that Iran poses a danger to Turkey’s national security interests and would view international pressure on Tehran as one chapter of U.S./Israeli attempt to dominate over the region in their unceasing taste for expansion. This way of thinking is largely new, reflecting Erdoğan’s increasingly sharpening rhetoric against the Western interests in the region.
Only ten days after the start of Iraq’s invasion in 2003, Erdoğan penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, describing the U.S. as a “faithful ally.” Last month, however, Erdoğan publicly threatened to expel the U.S. ambassador over controversial remarks, which Turkish Foreign Ministry confirmed that might not have been made by the ambassador.
Although Tehran is doing whatever it takes to halt Turkish interests and influence in its vicinity, the Turkish government’s unbelievable love towards its neighbor could be mostly explained by Iran's confrontation with the West. Siding by Iran, long the symbol of resistance to Western domination in the region, is a clear indication of Turkey’s unannounced intention to get rid of the Western presence in the Middle East.
With a rising profile of their country, Turkey’s decision-makers, particularly the overrated Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, considered that regional problems should have regional solutions. That mentality was a driving force behind Ankara’s vociferous backing of Iran and its veto of a fourth round of sanctions during the U.N. Security Council voting in 2010 was at the expense of key ties with its chief ally, the United States.
Turkey’s relations with Iran were slightly damaged after the start of the Great Arab Turmoil, particularly when Tehran refused to condemn atrocities committed by its ally Assad. This was also a period when Ankara realized that it could no longer shoulder fixing woes of its Arab neighbors and sought the life-saving aid of Washington.
This, however, ground to a halt when the Obama administration avoided striking targets of the Syrian regime for its use of chemical weapons in a last-minute decision. The decision to call off the strikes deeply disappointed leaders of Turkey, concluding that they are on their own in removing Assad, further pushing Turkey out of the West’s orbit.
Ankara’s scant understanding of foreign policy making and its inability to spot friends and foes have already thrown Turkey’s much-vaunted foreign policy into complete disarray. Officials in Ankara don’t really know what they are doing except frequently reiterating that they are promoting a foreign policy that puts humanity at the center (never mind calling Iran a second home – a country that is responsible for the deaths of thousands in Syria).
Failure to understand
It is tragic that Ankara fails to understand Iran’s intention to create a long belt of influence ranging from northern India to the Mediterranean, the same area that Turkey has tried to expand in the past decade. Despite painstaking efforts to build commercial and political ties with nations in the region, Iran has successfully sabotaged Ankara’s interests and drove Turkey out.
Iran is to blame for Ankara’s chilly relations with Lebanon, its war with Syria and fight with Iraq. Iran is also the country that largely blocks Turkey’s trade with its Turkic brethren in Central Asia by imposing unthinkable transit tariffs on Turkish trucks. One only wonders why Iran feels like a second home for Turkey’s leader.
Mahir Zeynalov is an Istanbul-based journalist with English-language daily Today's Zaman. He is also the managing editor of the Caucasus International magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @MahirZeynalov
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