Turkey and Iran
have experienced highpoints in their centuries-long relationship, but the last few months were not among them.
Since the deterioration of the situation in Syria into a civil war, Turkey has started to accuse Iran
through ranking officials of helping outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party
(PKK) militants use Iranian territory in order to carry out attacks in Turkey. The Turkish Army has been in a wide-scale operation in the Şemdinli-Hakkari areas bordering both Iraq and Iran
since the end of last July. Hundreds of PKK
militants and dozens of Turkish security personnel, soldiers and policemen have been killed in those clashes so far.
Ankara had the feeling that in order to divert the Turkish government’s and the Army’s attention from the Syrian border, the Iranian regime, as a friend of the Syrian regime, had turned a blind eye to PKK
militants (they had been carrying out massive operations against the PKK’s Iran
branch, PJAK, themselves up until some six months ago) using their territory. At one point a government spokesman and the deputy prime minister openly mentioned “Syrian and Iranian spies” who might be involved in PKK
At the National Security Council (MGK) meeting chaired by President Abdullah Gül on Aug. 28, a set of decisions was taken regarding the situation in Syria and PKK
decided to take “all necessary measures against threats to Turkey’s national security” in that meeting, the press statement said.
After the meeting, according to well-informed sources who do not want to be named, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan had a follow-up meeting with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu
and the head of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT), Hakan Fidan.
Six days later, on Sept. 3, David Petraeus, the head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), arrived in Istanbul and met with Fidan there. This was Petraeus’ second visit to Turkey in the last six months. The agenda of the meeting was leaked as Syria.
Following that meeting Fidan flew to Tehran for meetings with security officials. It was not possible to confirm the meeting and the content until Erdoğan said on his way back from Bosnia on Sept. 16 that he had sent Fidan to Iran
and the Iranians were denying any involvement with the increased PKK
As he mentioned Turkey’s conditions to return to normal relations with Israel
when he was condemning both the Libya attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens there and the film insulting Islam and its Prophet Muhammad (after a request by phone from U.S. President Barack Obama) during his previous stop in Ukraine
on Sept. 14, Erdoğan once again opened up the subject. He said he had told Ronald Lauder, the head of World Jewish Congress (and one of the richest men on earth) who had come to him as mediator a while ago, the conditions of apology for the Mavi Marmara killings.
Turning back to Fidan’s mission, one should remember his post before becoming the head of intelligence; he used to be the nuclear sherpa of Turkey in talks with Iran
and the West.
And right after Erdoğan’s statements, Saeed Jalili, the nuclear negotiator of Iran, paid an unexpected visit to Ankara
yesterday (Sept. 17) morning in order to catch Davutoğlu before Davutoğlu flies to Cairo for four-party talks on Syria. Jalili’s visit was unexpected but it coincided with an expected visit; the visit of U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, who was in Ankara
for intensive talks with Turks on regional matters.
Perhaps it is just a series of coincidences, but there might be more to watch during Erdoğan’s contacts in New York during the U.N. General Assembly next week.