The Iran deal and Turkish politics

The Iran deal and Turkish politics

Well done! For me, the deal is something to celebrate, since I have always been for diplomatic solutions. Moreover, I am a fan of Iran as a beautiful country and great culture. Finally, I want to hope that it will help restore peace in the region after so much suffering at tragic human cost.

Besides, I think that it was the most realistic and rational thing to do. When I was asked for my opinion on the Syrian crisis by a foreign policy adviser friend for an EU Parliament group in Brussels, sometime at the end of 2012, I risked my image of being considered a “sober” observer of politics by saying the best solution was to politically engage with Iran. At the time it could be conceived as a pure fantasy, but fortunately, my friend agreed with me. Then, I dared to write about my “fantastic” views, on Sept. 9, 2013, (“Talking to Iran,” Hürriyet Daily News) and then again on Dec. 2, 2013 (“The politics of the Sunni world and Iran,” Hürriyet Daily News). 

In nutshell, my argument was that Western politics, which have been shaped by hostility to Iran since the Islamic Revolution, had done nothing but increase turmoil and suffering in the Middle East.

Moreover, after the Western policies of supporting pro-Western Sunni Arab regimes failed with the Arab Spring in some countries, the idea of the spring also failed shortly afterwards as the region turned more unstable than ever. The idea of “moderate Islamic forces,” which were supposed to lead democratization in Arab Spring countries, failed on two fronts; they could neither enforce good governance nor manage to be an alternative to rising Islamic radicalism.

On the contrary, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt seemed to be sliding toward another authoritarian regime, the Syrian opposition surrendered to violent radicalism and Libya lost all stability and order, let alone advancing toward democracy. Even in Tunisia, which is considered as the success story, Ennahda had to step down to prevent political and social tension. Finally, Sunni politics in Iraq enforced the rise of radical groups. Even, the old Western ally Turkey lost its moderating role and engaged in sectarian politics in Syria.

Under the circumstances, nobody dared to admit it, but even “the old enemy” Iran turned out to be a more sensible interlocutor, especially after Hassan Rouhani succeeded Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. Besides, it became more and more evident that the best solution was to return to diplomacy in the Middle East, and talking to Iran is an inevitable step to achieve a diplomatic solution.

But I wish Turkey could have been a part of it. In fact, the current government previously put in real effort to mediate between Iran and the West and should be given credit for its previous political line. If Turkey managed to secure that line, the recent deal would best work for it, since Turkey is a Western ally and old friend of Iran. The deal would help overcome the difficulties that Turkey has had to endure of being both a Western ally and having special relations with Iran despite all those years of enmity between these two fronts.

Unfortunately, at the time of the beginning of rapprochement between Iran and the West, Turkey is, on one hand, isolating itself from the Western alliance while also its relations with Iran are also deteriorating. Needless to say, but it is an inevitable outcome of Turkey’s (perceived) indulgence of sectarian politics concerning regional affairs in general and concerning the Syrian crisis in particular. I am afraid it is not only another missed opportunity for Turkey, but also there may be more negative impacts from recent developments in the region on our country.

As for domestic politics, the most risky thing is the rising hostility toward the perceived rise of Shiite power in the region and the concomitant tendency to accuse Alevis for all manner of things in Turkey.

After all, even the terrible killing of a public prosecutor in Istanbul last week, by two members of an illegal and dubious leftist organization, has been linked to Alevis by pro-government journalists and supporters. Moreover, the event is seen as part of “a dirty game of playing with Shiites and Alevis in the region.”

I hope that the current government can realize the risk, as it needs to call its supporters to be sensible – otherwise Turkey will fall into the trap of sectarianism in domestic policy as well.