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MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

mab@hurriyet.com.tr

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND > Let’s not underestimate Iran

NEW YORK

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Not only in our country but everywhere else and especially in the United Nations, the conversation is focused on Iran. In the past, Turkey was not quite included in these debates, but this time Ankara is in every calculation. The winds in the region have changed direction. Until a while ago, Turkey and Iran used to embrace each other. As the developments in Syria increased in tension, their ways began to diverge.

Turkish society is in a surprised mood with regard to Iran. We cannot decide at all whether this country is our foe or friend. When viewed from the past to today, we can see that we have never been very close with whoever is ruling in Tehran.

Until 1979 (the Shah era), Iran was our forced ally. Even though it was forced, Turkish and Iranian leaders would walk arm in arm, military alliances were formed and we both would be the gendarmerie of Washington in the region.

When Ayatollah Khomeini took power in the 1980s, Ankara adopted a different stance. Tehran was regarded as a dangerous country exporting the Islamic Revolution. Iranian leaders, when they paid an official visit to Turkey, would not want to visit Atatürk’s mausoleum. Similarly, Turkish leaders would not go to Khomeini’s tomb. In spite of this, Turkey was Iran’s door to the West and Iran was Turkey’s door to exporting in the region.

After 1983, during former President Turgut Özal’s era, the relationship improved. In 1997, former leader Necmettin Erbakan made his first visit to Tehran as a Prime Minister. This gesture was considered one of the catalysts of the February 28 intervention that toppled the government of the time.

In the 2000s, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan brought the relationship to its best point yet.

Even though he was the target of harsh criticisms from the West, he supported Iran in nuclear negotiations. He voted against sanctions at the U.N. Security Council. While Erdoğan was taking all these steps, he accepted NATO’s missile shield on our land.

In short, Turkey was never a “buddy” of Iran’s, because Iran did not want such a relationship. The reason is that Tehran does not believe in or trust any country but itself.

Before the Syrian incidents erupted, Iran would treat us as a brother while remaining deeply distrustful of Turkey. It would not reveal its true feelings, however. It gave the impression that it respected us. Bashar al-Assad’s struggle caused the path with Ankara to definitively split, as keeping the al-Assad administration in power seemed more important to Iran than maintaining good relations with Turkey.
The Turkish-Iranian relationship has perhaps settled in a more realistic place. Ankara is shifting to the Washington front while Tehran is leading the fight on its own front.

No matter what, when viewing all these zigzags, it is not very difficult to come to a conclusion that those in power in Turkey, especially the media, do not know Iran very well.

Iran has a culture that invented chess
In Turkey, there is either general applause for Iran or general scorn. The number of those who can assess Iran for what it actually as is is very few, and very ineffective.

We are forgetting some factors: Iran is a descendant of the Persian Empire. It cannot be defeated easily, it cannot be fooled.

When you review Iranian foreign policy closely, you will immediately recognize that they are very sharp. They have been twisting the Western world, primarily the U.S., around their little finger for 22 years.

Just look how they manage their nuclear politics. Is there another country in the world that fine-tunes its foreign policy so well and conducts it with this much success?

We should not underestimate Iran.

Of course, this does not mean “succumbing.”

Let’s not forget, Iran is the country that invented the game of chess.

This country can be ruled by a dictator as the shah, or it can be ruled by religious leaders; the texture of Iran is different. It is not like Saudi Arabia or Egypt.

October/20/2012

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READER COMMENTS

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US Observer

10/22/2012 5:29:02 PM

@ Blue, Irna does the exact same things you accuse the U.S. of doing but you are their biggest supporter. America does promote pro democracy becasue it is just and worthy notion for all humanity. All people should have the right to life, liberty, and justice. I see nothing wrong with trying to let oppressed people know there is a better way and give them hope.

Murat

10/22/2012 5:03:31 PM

"BUT the people who died on the MM are a different matter all together." How silly of me to think that all human life had some value, regardless of political inclinations, nationality or religion. Obviously some are more valuable than others. Let us remember again that we are talking about unarmed activists who were no threat to Israel or anyone in any way, who were attacked and murdered in intl waters. Yes, the whole idea of the flotillas is to protest the legality AND morality of the blockade.

mara mcglothin

10/22/2012 3:13:07 PM

SHMOLIK I am not sold on any American politicians. I am for as little government as possible and believe that each state should have more to say about what goes on. Nobama is no better and possibly worse than the rest. We are in as short supply of statesmen as Turkey and many other countries in this World. God help us all! At least in America, I am confident that the laws of the land will protect me from their stupidity. In Turkey you can't be too sure. Everyone is afraid to talk.

mara mcglothin

10/22/2012 3:06:48 PM

BLUE I maintain that the Perisans that left with the Shah are exactly the same type of people who are standing with Assad. They/their families thrvied under thed regime, whether the Shah's/Assad's government is bad or not? Who knows what we hear. Some consider themselves Persians, some are of Kurdish decent. They come from all walks of life. From a family of herders to a "kurdish prince" son of a wealthy land owner. I have no opinion but I have asked them quesitons.

Blue Dotterel

10/22/2012 11:29:39 AM

Most of the Iranians who fled to the US after the Iranian revolution did so after the US backed Saddam Hussein Iraqi invasion of Iran in 1980, about a year after the revolution. Saddam was supported by the US throughout the war, even provided chemical weapons which were used against the Kurds. The Western goal was to weaken both countries in a protracted war, which it did. There were Iranians who left with Shah. They were those Most complicit in the regimes crimes. No doubt, you support them.

Blue Dotterel

10/22/2012 11:21:34 AM

Mara, what you can do s stop threatening nation states, like Iran, which are well within their international legal rights, and stop funding "pro-democracy" NGOs to overthrow other states regimes; that is, keep out of the internal affairs of other states. The vast amount of human suffering that has occurred in the ME and elsewhere is caused by Western meddling in the internal affairs of independent states. There is not a single state that the West as meddled in that has exhibited positive changes

A Shmolik

10/22/2012 4:38:03 AM

@Mara Mc... You certainly are a one Lady dynomo and according to you few people in this here World can measure up to your high demands and standards, of course except yourself and possibly Me, of course! Your views on that Gentlemanly Turkish Fm A Davutoglu are particularly gloom, most likely they deprive you of a good nights sleep, solets forget him for now. So while you're at it, please tell us your opinion about our president Barak Hussein Obama, please! What future do you see for the World

mara mcglothin

10/21/2012 8:51:57 PM

MURAT I am not suggesting that Turkey has no right to avenge the murders of its citizens, BUT the people who died on the MM are a different matter all together. They weren't diplomats stationed in the country, they were intentionally stirring up trouble. Why was your boat the only want stopped where there were casualties, and I am so tired of hearing about international waters. The blockade clearly states that Israel will stop any ship that is intent on breaching the blockade.

mara mcglothin

10/21/2012 8:48:54 PM

SCHMOLIK I simply see Devutoglu for what he is "a nutty professor" He is always running around with his brain in rewind and his mouth in fast forward. Not one goal of his foreign policy has been correct, and he is a public embarrassment to Turkey on the World stage. His behavior reflects on the Turks who live outside of Turkey and people actually think he is representative of a normal Turkish person, which we know is not necessarily the case. Getting along with Hillary is no recommendation.

mara mcglothin

10/21/2012 8:44:57 PM

And the Ayatollah and the President of Iran are like twin Noel Babas who only spread sweetness and light in their own country as throughout the region. They never have to take responsibility for their actions, and they can blame everything on the USA. They would love to have Israel in for tea, but the USA won't let them come. and on and on.
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