What would be Iran’s reply to Turkey?
Turkish-Iranian relations have been facing the most strained days of the last decade. The clues of this tension can be seen from politicians’ explanations on both sides.
What is interesting is that Iranian actors make contradictory explanations over and over on the same day. For example, while Iran’s senior government officials define Turkey as a “friendly country” and high level diplomatic visits continue, Iran’s chief of staff defines Turkey as a “target country.”
It is not possible to explain this contradiction with Iran’s polyphonic political system alone. The reality is that the relations have been distending more. The curious point is Iran’s response to this tension.
Iran can react to this situation in various ways; directly or indirectly. For example, it can limit economic relations, cut gas transfers, limit the visits of Iranian tourists to Turkey or forbid Turkish trucks from using Iranian routes to reach Central Asian countries. The most important issue is Iran’s high capacity to create problems for Turkey and its allies regarding their security. “Security” is not only a nuclear issue; I also want to emphasize Iran’s capacity for systematic covert operations in Turkey.
Turkey’s history opposing terrorism in the last period is similar to the Ottoman Empire’s; multifarious and rich in sense. For the last four decades, a wide range of terror attacks can be seen ranging from ethnic terrorism to ideological terrorism, religious terrorism and sectarian terrorism. Since various types of terrorism attacks are under evaluation, it is not difficult to find “sponsors” for terrorists and to attain a “supported organization” for countries.
Without a doubt, it is impossible for the Islamic Republic of Iran with its high capacity for covert operations to disregard this space for opportunity. Thus, for the last four decades Iran has had an exceptional place in the history of terrorism in Turkey both directly and through its Russia and Syria alliance.
Iran not only showed its capacity by removing the opponents of the regime fleeing to Turkey on the ground; it also supported ideological, religious and ethnic terror attacks both directly and indirectly. Hence, a person who glances at a newspaper from the 1980s or 1990s can read stories about assassinated Iranian people or people who were kidnapped in the trunk of a car heading for Iran.
Iran used this talent to the utmost during the 1990s. While supporting the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) and Islamic Kurdish Hezbollah directly, with Syria Iran also helped to establish coordination among ethnic-based and sectarian – as Acilciler – or other Marxist terrorist organizations. As a result, numerous terrorist attacks on academics and journalists took place during that period.
It won’t be a surprise to see that Iran would give a start to its covert operations, waking its “sleeper cells” and activating its old networks. According to historical experience, it is possible to face a selective, targeted terror. However, this time, unlike in the past, not only Turks but also “Turkey’s Western allies” would be targeted.