A new dangerous page opens in the Middle East

A new dangerous page opens in the Middle East

Hopes for a quiet and peaceful year have ended too quickly in the very early days of 2020. Already unstable and unpromising, the Middle East seems to enter a new and a more dangerous era after the assassination of Iran’s top commander of the Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani by the United States on Jan. 3.

The move follows months-long tension between the two countries after U.S. President Donald Trump canceled a nuclear deal with Iran inked by his predecessor, Barack Obama, and other prominent Western powers.

The U.S. is trying to justify the assassination by suggesting that Soleimani and his men were about to orchestrate fresh attacks against the U.S. interests in the region after the mass protest against the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

However, for many, killing Soleimani is more about Trump’s domestic concerns on the eve of the impeachment process at the Senate and upcoming presidential elections in November 2020.

As seen in the Ukraine case and many others, the foreign and security policies of the U.S. are regarded as just another tool in the eyes of Trump for his short-term gains on the domestic front regardless of the negative consequences of his irresponsible decisions.
Iran and the Quds Force should not be deemed as fully innocent, either. An attack against a U.S. base in Kirkuk and mass protests against the U.S. embassy in Baghdad had been plotted by the Iran-backed militia in a way to escalate the tension in Iraq. Plus, Soleimani is known to be the most senior operative for Iran’s foreign missions, from Palestine to Syria. He and his forces have played a key role by protecting Bashar al-Assad against the opposition groups.

At this stage, eyes will be on Iran as top officials have announced that they will look for revenge. Plus, pro-Iran groups in different parts of the Middle East have called for retaliation against U.S. interests. The course of events will be determined by what kind of retaliatory actions the Iranian side will take and to what extent they will lead to counteractions from the U.S.

The tension will surely affect all the nations in the region including Turkey. One of the most important points around this escalation is the fact that this conflict between Iran and the U.S. takes place on Iraqi territories.

It’s very difficult for the weak Iraqi government to take control in the aftermath of the assassination. Already struggling to address growing economic problems and disorder in the country, the Iraqi government will have difficulties in dispersing potential fresh massive protests. Therefore, countries like Turkey and other responsible members of the international community should urge both Iran and the U.S. not to further jeopardize the delicate situation in Iraq.

They should also press on both countries to de-escalate, as an armed conflict will serve nobody’s interests. As for  Turkey, it should surely get prepared for new regional turbulence and re-calibrate its entire Middle East policies. Ties between Turkey and Iran have always been shaky since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in the latter. However, despite numerous sources of tension, both sides have always followed a cautious line towards each other to avoid a bilateral conflict. Instead, they opted for economic and energy cooperation, although Iran was under harsh global embargo for decades.

Since 2011 the Syrian civil war put two nations on rival camps, but they could manage to find a way to cooperate under the Astana Process with the participation of Russia. Dialogue between the two non-Arab countries is seen as necessary for regional stability although they do not agree on everything.

Under today’s conditions, ties between Turkey and the United States are not perfect either but the constant dialogue between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Trump is regarded as the most important asset on the bilateral front. In this scene, Turkey should not take sides but should try to use its ties with both nations to defuse the tension.