In the current state of international relations, it is impossible to explain a country's foreign policy only by analyzing its government's choices, its political regime and its economic obligations. Moreover, many domestic problems a country faces are in fact the result of the country's foreign policy decisions.
Global powers are able to decide on their strategic future and foreign policy on their own, and they want other countries to adapt themselves to those policies. In this context, regional powers are forced to make their choices and pick their side. If they hesitate, they face consequences, as they become the battleground for the global powers in their rivalries.
Therefore, there are many similarities between Turkey and Iran, and that is why Turks have a greater understanding of what is going on there than probably any other foreign observer.
Iran, like Turkey, was subjected to the pressure of Russia and Great Britain before World War II, and to the pressure of the U.S. and the Soviet Union after the war. In order to escape from this pressure, Iran has from time to time tried to get closer to European powers, exactly as Turkey did. Yet because of the international sanctions, Iran's relations with Europe could not develop since the Islamic Revolution as much as they wanted to. As for Turkey, the current state of its EU membership process explains most of the problems between this country and its European partners. What is hard to understand is why the European countries do not see that pushing away Turkey or Iran is only serving Russia's interests.
As Europe seems more and more distant, Turkey and Iran, in their will to reduce the pressure they feel from the U.S. and Russia, have decided to improve their cooperation with China for some time. However, the U.S. and Russia probably think that the growing Chinese influence in the Middle East is even more dangerous than Europe's influence. They have thus decided to sabotage together every attempt from a Middle Eastern country to get closer to China.
That is the reason why it is not surprising neither unpredictable what is happening in Iran. Iran's elected president Hassan Rouhani had promised during the election campaign that he will make peace with the West, and especially with the U.S., and reduce Russia's influence over Iran. In order to do that, he first asked the EU's help, and then, he tried to get closer to China, hoping it may counterbalance Russia. The social and political tensions in Iran, however, made it impossible for him to implement this policy totally. Because of the current atmosphere, Iran has suddenly become a country where the teaching of English in elementary schools is banned. There are also rumors that the country's former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been arrested. In a sense, both pro-Western and anti-Western segments of the population are being punished. The streets are perhaps calmer compared to last week, but the unrest is definitely not behind us. What we know is that the Iranians will not be able to decide on their own about their country's future track: Will Iran become a more pro-Western and partially secular country, or, on the contrary, will it adopt a rigid nationalist and conservative line?
It will be too easy to label U.S. President Donald Trump or Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as those who are behind this unpleasant situation. It is true that they contribute to this poisonous atmosphere as much as they can, but they are not the only responsible ones. Maybe the Iranians, both the conservatives and the reformists, should watch more carefully what Russia is doing. That applies to the Turks as well.
All this is happening while Europe seems to be motionless. The EU is still refraining itself from taking a meaningful action on Turkey and Iran, but it is high time for Europe to do something. Especially because we ignore when such a window of opportunity will present itself again in the future.
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