The role of Turkey in the nuclear deal

The role of Turkey in the nuclear deal

Turkey will be among the countries to most benefit if the nuclear deal with Iran and the P5+1 leads to a comprehensive final agreement, and if Iran becoming a nuclear power is prevented by this. 

We can talk about two types of benefits. The first one is net profit. 

The economic advantage for Turkey with the end of international sanctions to Iran comes at the top. For example, an expected early outcome of the deal is the easing of the pressure of the United States over countries importing oil and natural gas from Iran. 

Next is that Turkey will be relieved from making choices that would have brought dramatic consequences against itself, and also before an Iran that has turned into a regional super power with its nuclear weapons. A Turkey that has opted to meet its security needs by staying under the nuclear umbrella of the Western alliance would have been marginalized in any case before its eastern neighbor.

Now, Turkey seems to have moved away from these harmful consequences, thanks to the deal at Geneva. Nevertheless, the risks regarding Turkey and the region have not been eliminated. For this, a final agreement assuring the entire world has to be signed in the future. A risky and difficult period is waiting ahead for all parties involved, a process that could be disrupted by many problems and obstructions. 

At a workshop organized by the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM) last weekend on the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons, potential risks threatening the process were discussed.

Veteran Iran analyst Ali Vaez from the International Crisis Group defined the deal as "the first step of a very long and very problematic process.” He drew attention to idea that Iranian and American domestic politics may constitute problems in this context. 

Ali Vaez also spoke of the “anti-American” character of the Iranian Parliament. He also emphasized the “anti-Iran” trends in the American Congress. “As long as Tehran supports the Bashar al-Assad regime and Hezbollah, it will be difficult to convince the American Congress to lift the sanctions.” 
The existing influence of Israel, which has not approved of the deal, over the American Congress should also be taken into consideration as a factor in American domestic politics,” he said. 

Right now, it is the lack of “mutual trust” between both sides that is felt the most and this deal is aiming to provide this. However, senior associate of the Nuclear Policy Program, Mark Hibbs from the American think tank the Carnegie Endowment, said this “mistrust,” along with the inadequacy of monitoring tools, would cause this deal to fail. 

Head of EDAM, Sinan Ülgen, questioned whether or not Turkey, the opinion of which was not consulted during the deal process, would undertake a positive role toward building the trust needed at this stage among the parties involved. This indeed is a very timely and clever inquisition into the matter.
For Turkey to build trust among all sides involved in regional clashes of late, it first needs to regain their trust. 

Turkey cannot play a trust-building role between the West and Shiite Iran by staying in the Sunni camp where it has placed itself as part of the sectarian segregation in the Middle East. 

Without losing any more time, Turkey should immediately go back to its secular foreign policy. 
However, this is not enough. In order to re-gain the trust it has lost, Turkey should readopt the traditional features of its foreign policy of “predictability and institutionalism.” 

It is time to take the necessary radical steps to return to the secular, predictable and institutional foreign policy. Otherwise, Turkey will not be able to contribute to the success of this nuclear deal that will bring huge benefits to itself. 

Kadri Gürsel is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this abridged piece was published on Dec 2. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.