Iran and others
In March the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, canceled a dinner with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The other day, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, was kept waiting for half an hour at the Prime Ministry in Ankara. This is, no doubt, a “response” to Iran.
Iran is seeking political sovereignty in the region of the Shiite Crescent in the Middle East, reaching to the Gulf. It has a military and political alliance with the Syrian Baath regime. In such a conjuncture, dictatorships may be toppled but in their place ethnic and sectarian identity tensions emerge. For Turkey, this region has become quite risky.
The fact that in Baghdad today there is a Shiite government in power, represented by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, is an additional problem. A high-level official said yesterday that Maliki is not an Iran sympathizer, but he that is an “Iran-guided” person. The same official also said: “Iran’s goals, what it does, and the way it does it annoy us. Iran is following a sectarian policy and we see sectarianism as a threat. Our point of view is democracy against totalitarianism.”
Democracy in Iran is not yet an adequately strong dynamic; for this reason, the regime is free to act recklessly. It is not a coincidence that now that PJAK, the Iranian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has ended its activities in Iran, terrorism in Turkey has begun to escalate, and that Tehran and Damascus are supporting the PKK. Moreover, a northern Syria issue is about to emerge.
Turkey in the Middle East
The tension between Iran and Turkey began when Turkey agreed to house the radar portion of NATO’s “missile shield” project on its territory. Another important cause of the tension is that Turkey is opposing Iran’s “Shiite Crescent” policy with its own political and economic relations. Also, with regard to the Syrian problem, Turkey has come face to face with Iran.
While Iran is trying to become a nuclear power itself, Turkey’s accepting the “missile shield” is understandable in the search for its own security. It bothers Iran that Turkey is increasing its influence in the Middle East through alliances and trade relations and that it is acting together with Western countries. However, even though Turkey’s policies are creating certain tensions today, they are appropriate to both history and the future.
There may be criticism of Turkey’s policy on Syria, but Turkey’s stance against Bashar al-Assad and the Baath regime is a requirement of this policy. Having said this, it is also apparent that an adjustment in the dose is necessary.
Foreign policy should not be pulled down to low levels of domestic politics. Our history is full of sad examples of this. During the Balkan Wars, the Party of Union and Progress incited war to wear down the Cabinet in Istanbul, which was opposing them. When they took power, then they had to deal with the Albanian uprising, instigated by their opponents.
In a vital conjuncture, viewing critical topics in foreign policy through glasses of political hostility is very wrong; it prevents “common wisdom.” That is unfortunately the situation with terrorism and Kurdish issues.
Turkey experienced similar bloody issues in the Balkans historically. A century later, it is happening in the Middle East. If not today, when will “common wisdom” prevail?
Taha Akyol is a columnist for daily Hürriyet, in which the unabridged version of this article was published Sept. 20. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.