Iran may steal Turkey’s role
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is visiting Iran today with four files.
In a joint statement, 65 Iranian deputies called on Erdoğan to apologize for his remarks about Iran. Erdoğan is expected to bring Yemen, Iraq, Syria and energy to the table in his talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
The timing of the visit is meaningful because the eyes of the world are on Iran now because of the historic nuclear deal it made last week with the West; also for the role this country will play from now on in the global energy equilibrium.
Energy expert and strategist Mehmet Öğütçü answered my questions on what kind of role Iran would take in energy and how the nuclear program deal would affect Turkey.
Öğütçü has such titles as the London-based Global Resources Partnership Chairman, the special energy representative of the EU and the Bosphorus Energy Club Executive Chairman.
His first sentence is striking: “Nobody should doubt that Iran is a super power in oil and natural gas.” As a matter of fact, in the hours following the deal, Öğütçü noted oil prices went down. With the increase in oil production, the OPEC order will be upside down.
He also predicts that with the lifting of the sanctions against Iran, major oil and natural gas companies of the West will turn to Iran.
According to Öğütçü, Iran is aiming to strengthen its petro-chemical industry and instead of exporting oil and natural gas in their crude forms, they want to be one of the leading chemical producers in the world.
Iran will not have difficulty finding a market after it boosts its energy exports. China will continue to be its biggest client. So will Turkey and India.
Iran will need Turkey’s cooperation to transport its oil and natural gas to European markets. “The only safe and economic route for Iran to transport its oil and natural gas to Europe is Turkey. The Pakistan-India pipeline turned into a long-winded story,” Öğütçü said.
However, Turkey will also benefit in the short and medium terms from the deal Iran has signed with the West.
In the long run though, the equilibrium may turn in Iran’s favor.
According to Öğütçü’s analysis, after five to 10 years, if Iran integrates with international capital, finance, technology and commerce systems successfully, also if it adopts a constructive policy in regional conflict areas, then it could “steal the role” from Turkey.
Öğütçü said, “Turkey, in order to prevent Iran from stealing economic and security roles and to protect its superiority, has to create a new story for itself.”
“Turkey needs a new story in its economy, investment, commercial vision, security fields, in its ambition to become an energy hub. Because discourses such as ‘global player,’ ‘regional power,’ ‘Turkey vision 2023’ and ‘New Turkey’ do not create the same enthusiasm as they used to before,” he said.
Of course Öğütçü’s analysis is valid only if the West and Iran comply by the nuclear deal. The fact that the Iranian foreign minister declared Iran would go back to its nuclear program if the deal is violated shows that everything in on a knife-edge.