A heartbroken Turk belly-dancing to Persian santouri
Everything would have come up roses between Ankara and Tehran. Certain things did come up roses. Trade, of both the conventional and shady varieties, actually did prosper. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, while he was still the prime minister, said he felt that Tehran was his second home. He smiled and felt proud when former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad praised his good friend Mr. Erdoğan “for his clear stance against the Zionist regime.” The “Passage to Persia” was in perfect progress.
But this column also noted times of less optimism: “Mr. Erdoğan and his men, for the Shiite mullahs in Tehran, are too Western, too little Muslim, too Sunni and too shrewd; they are probably a modern-day Trojan Horse in the eyes of their Shiite neighbors. And Mr. Ahmadinejad’s Iran, for the Sunni mullahs in Ankara, is too Shiite, discreetly too hostile/rival, too ambitious and possibly too unreliable,” (Apr. 7, 2011).
A year-and-a-half before a coup against the Muslim Brothers in Cairo made Egypt Turkey’s new regional nemesis, this column also predicted that “Mr. [then-Foreign Minister Ahmet] Davutoğlu and his briefcase full of neo-Ottoman ambitions are simply not so wanted in Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus or in influential office rooms in Beirut. Soon they will be unwanted in Egypt and Libya, too …
“Ankara naively thinks that it can win hearts and minds in Tehran by opposing the [Western] sanctions … Professor Davutoğlu may confidently believe that his powers of persuasion work more than perfectly in Tehran and Cairo – like they more than perfectly worked in Damascus and Beirut …
“After the usual smiles, exchange of pleasantries and good wishes in his January visit to Tehran, [Davutoğlu] said ‘the rise of a Shiite Crescent could turn into an opportunity if Turkey and Iran enhance their dialogue,’ inspiring ‘Turkish belly-dancing to Persian santouri,’” (this column, Jan. 11, 2012).
And part II of “Turkish belly-dancing to Persian santouri” provided an unwilling prologue almost three years before President Erdoğan put it in different wording: “Just like it took Ankara several years to find out that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was a ruthless dictator, it has taken the Turkish foreign policy wizards even longer to see that their childish Iran policy could only cause thunder-like laughter in Tehran.”
Put in Mr. Erdoğan’s heartbroken wording over the weekend: “We cannot comfortably work with Iran. They highlight a sectarian approach too much. I have repeatedly told prominent Iranians: Let’s put aside the Alevi-Sunni [divide]. Before everything, we are Muslims. Let’s view this matter [Syria] like Muslims. When we have bilateral meetings with them, they tell us ‘Let’s resolve this matter together.’ When it comes to taking steps [for a solution], they unfortunately have working methods that are particular to them. This is, of course, very sad.”
Is it really very sad, Mr. President? Are you so awfully shocked? You expected that the Iranians would belly-dance to the Turkish saz, while in fact over the past few years it has been Turkish belly-dancing to the Persian santouri.
The Turks are smart. They finally discovered that the “Iranians highlight a sectarian approach too much.” Sadly, they are not yet smart enough to see that the Iranians are smart enough to see that the Turks, too, highlight a sectarian approach too much and childishly think that the badly unconvincing “let’s-sort-this-out-like-Muslims-would” rhetoric could only cause further loud laughter in Tehran.
It’s the same Turkish malady: Let’s have a (Sunni) Islamic approach to all things Middle Eastern. Unless, of course, we are in trouble and call for reinforcements from the Christian world. It is indeed very sad, Mr. President. Not just that the mullahs in Tehran must be privately laughing at you and refuse to buy your rhetoric, but that you still believe you can cunningly impose a Sunni supremacist worldview in this very complex part of the world.
But fortunately the game of pretension between the neo-Ottomans and neo-Safavids goes on. Just a couple of days ago, Iran’s ambassador to Ankara, Alireza Bigdeli said "There are close personal relations between the leaders of the two countries [Iran and Turkey].” Is that not lovely?