By Gareth H. Jenkins (vol. 4, no. 23 of the Turkey Analyst)
On November 26, 2011, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, a senior commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, declared that, if Iran came under attack from the U.S. or Israel, its first response would be to target elements of NATO’s missile shield in Turkey. The threat was the latest – and most explicit – Iranian expression of unease at Turkey’s willingness to deploy the missile shield since the decision was first announced on September 2, 2011. It put additional pressure on a bilateral political relationship already strained by the popular uprisings in the Arab world. The tensions will have reassured those in the West who had been alarmed by the apparent rapprochement between the two countries in recent years, particularly Turkey’s vigorous defense of Iran’s nuclear program in 2010. But, in reality, the relationship has always been more nuanced and multilayered than a simple dichotomy of friend or foe.
By Richard Weitz (vol. 3, no. 10 of the Turkey Analyst)
Months of diplomatic efforts by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and President Lula Ignacio da Silva of Brazil to mediate the Iranian nuclear dispute appeared to achieve results when they announced an agreement in Tehran on May 17. In their trilateral statement, the three leaders declared that Iran was prepared to “deposit” 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium in Turkey in return for the delivery within one year of 120 kilograms of uranium enriched to the higher level needed for Tehran’s medical research reactor. Erdoğan and Lula urged other countries to accept the accord, arguing that the trilateral deal was sufficiently promising as to make further sanctions unnecessary. Although expressing thanks for their efforts, the permanent members of the UN Security Council reached a preliminary agreement on the content of another sanctions resolution the following day.
By Richard Weitz (vol. 3, no. 5 of the Turkey Analyst)
By dint of geography and its strategic relations, Turkey has assumed a pivotal role in Europe’s future ballistic missile defense (BMD) architecture. The United States has been lobbying Ankara to participate in its program within a NATO framework, while Iran and Russia have encouraged Turkey to keep its distance from Washington’s BMD plans. Turkish officials have strived to balance these competing forces while leveraging them to advance Turkey’s own regional security interests.
By M. K. Kaya and Halil M. Karaveli (vol. 3, no. 3 of the Turkey Analyst)
As Iran’s nuclear ambitions cause growing concern among Western powers, Turkey remains committed to its ambition of staking out a mediating position in the Iranian-Western stand-off. However, the Turkish policy rests on the unrealistic assumption that Ankara can somehow avoid hard choices. Indeed, Turkey’s position is set to become increasingly untenable as the tensions rise. Although it would seem that Ankara faces a choice between retaining the trust of the United States and remaining true to the eastern vocation of its foreign policy, appearing to be an advocate of Iran is ultimately undermining Turkey’s credibility in the Middle East as well.
By Svante E. Cornell (vol. 2, no. 12 of the Turkey Analyst)
After two decades of deep tensions with Iran, the AKP government has largely rebuilt relations with Turkey’s historical rival and neighbor. Yet its responses to the Iranian crisis – in which Prime Minister Erdoğan was embarrassingly among the first to congratulate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad upon his highly questionable re-election – appears to question the foundations of this rapprochement. Moreover, it indicates the limitations of Ankara’s newly found “zero-problem” foreign policy, which appears to mean that Turkey has no opinions on the basis of either interests, values or principles in its neighborhood.
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.