The Approaches of Turkey and Iran to the Middle East: Policies and Interests

The Approaches of Turkey and Iran to the Middle East: Policies and Interests

  • 25 March 2013

The Arab Spring has not only affected the countries where the revolutions sprang up and toppled regimes, but it has also impacted the movers and shakers in the region.  Turkey and Iran are the two of the influential regional actors whose relations have been reshaped to a certain degree in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Analogous to a “rollercoaster ride,” the Turkish-Iranian relations have always had its ups and downs in the last three decades. The tremors from the 1979 revolution in Tehran fueled the suspicions of Turkey’s governing secular elite throughout the 1980s and 1990s. It was in this period that Iran drew criticism from the secular tenets of the Turkish republic for its alleged aims to export the Islamic revolution to its northern neighbor. Between the early 1990s and 2000s, the Turkish government blamed Iranian cells in Turkey for political assassinations and tampering with its stability. Iran, on the other hand, often criticized Turkey for interfering in its internal affairs through gestures of support for moderates and reformers within the mullah regime.

Relations improved after the rise to power in 2002 of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party). Economic relations picked up and trade between the two countries skyrocketed to an unprecedented level.  On political and foreign relations level, Prime Minister Erdoğan and his cabinet stood for the normalization of Iran’s relations with the rest of the international community. Ankara led conventions and held closed-door meetings with the representatives from key countries to facilitate Iran’s integration into the global system. The AK Party government single-handedly defended Iran’s quest for a peaceful use of nuclear energy.  Turkey worked closely with Brazil and P5 + 1 to reach an agreement on Tehran’s goal to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. However, this progressive wave of amity and cooperation between Ankara and Tehran has dissipated recently following the spread of the Arab Spring to Syria and in the aftermath of recent events in Iraq.

This paper thus argues that the causes of the current chill in Turkish-Iranian relations stems from each country’s response to the Arab Spring in particular, and their approaches to much-needed stability and peace in the region. It outlines the principles from which each country bases its response when reacting to the developments in its neighbors. This study also sheds light on how recent developments vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear program and the steps that Ankara has taken to contribute to regional security have bolstered the subtle competition between the two actors over the future of the region. The paper will conclude with a number of predictions on the direction in which relations will evolve and their ramifications for the Middle East.

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Monday 25 March 2013

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Monday 25 March 2013

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