Turkey’s recent cozying up to Iran have made many in the West nervous. The article below argues that all is not what it seems, that Turkey and Iran also are major competitors for power and influence in the region. The authors take a close look at Turkish and Iranian moves (and rivalry) in each country in the region. They end with some foreign policy recommendations: The Turkish-Iranian axis is limited and may be temporary. Turkey remains a partner with the West. Turkey’s growing influence on regional players can serve to promote US interests in the region while adding legitimacy to what otherwise would be seen as outside interference. (click here)
The continuing rise of Turkey and Iran at the expense of the Arab states is troubling to the West. This is particularly the case because the parallel rise to power has been expressed in a warming of relations between these two states—a sharp contrast to the mutual suspicion that characterized the bilateral relationship in the past. These trends have also been interpreted in the West as a turn eastward in Turkish foreign policy, and Turkey is no longer seen as the dependable ally it used to be during the Cold War.
The current thawing of the relations between Turkey and Iran has been articulated in different ways. In public statements, the Turks and the Iranians have stressed the longstanding peaceful nature of their shared border… Indeed, neither state has any territorial claim against the other. Trade relations have been greatly expanded, leading the two states to consider signing a free-trade agreement. Finally, Iran has allowed Turkish mediation on the nuclear issue and is cooperating, more than ever, in their fight against the Kurdish separatists.
However, despite the present cooperation, there remains great potential for dispute between Iran and Turkey, and there exists the possibility of long-term competition for regional dominance developing. Over time, certainly if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon capability, Ankara is less likely to strengthen its cooperation with Tehran and existing differences between the two countries will rise to the surface. In fact, the basic interests of Ankara and Tehran—in some if not most issues—collide, which could lead to disagreements, and in the long run even conflict, between these two non-Arab powers in the Middle East…