Verbal outburst between Turkey and Iran

Published 31.03.2015 02:03
Updated 05.04.2015 20:13

Iran has been an important player in the region since the ousting of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953 by a coup. The CIA much later acknowledged that the coup to overthrow Mosaddeq, who was nationalizing Iranian oil, was carried out under CIA direction. He was replaced by Shah Reza Pahlavi, who reigned as an absolute monarch for more than a quarter of a century before being overthrown by the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Under his reign, Shah Reza Pahlavi, who professed a barely hidden disdain for Turkey unlike his father, was instrumental in fomenting and supporting the Kurdish insurgency in Iraq. He was extremely Machiavellian in supporting the Kurdish movement under the leadership of Mullah Mustafa Barzani against the central Iraqi authorities. The shah did not want to renew an old treaty signed in 1937 about the use of Shatt al-Arab by Iranian ships. He denounced the treaty unilaterally in 1969, and Iraq could not take any retaliatory measure because of its military weakness vis-à-vis Iran. In 1975, because of Iranian blackmail, Iraq had to accept the new status on Shatt al-Arab, and the Kurdish insurgency suddenly stopped because Iran ended its weapons deliveries. To cover Iran's tracks, weapons delivered to Kurds were Soviet made, which Israel had seized from Soviet-backed Arab regimes and then handed over to Iran at the shah's demand. Barzani died of cancer and sorrow after the terrible demise of his struggle. The shah supported Yemeni royalists together with Saudi Arabia against republican forces in the Yemen Civil War from 1962 to 1970 and assisted the sultan of Oman in putting down a rebellion in Dhofar.

The 1979 Iranian Revolution promised the moon and the stars to Muslims all around the world, but when Iraq wanted the abrogation of the status of Shatt al-Arab, then Supreme Leader of Iran Ruhollah Khomeini rejected their demands by asking them how they dared to ask from an Islamic government what they did not have the courage to ask from the vile shah. The border dispute occasioned a full-scale war between Iraq and Iran that lasted eight years and was one of the longest conventional wars in the 20th century. Almost a million people died, half of them civilians. Mustard gas and other banned chemical warfare were used by Saddam Hussein's army against Iran and Kurds.

The war with Iraq totally undermined the Iranian Islamic Republic's economic and ideological capacity. Since then, Iran has only been fighting proxy wars. Iran was in a real troublesome situation in 2001, most of its army amassed on the Iraqi frontier, and its other military forces were supporting Shiite Afghans against the Taliban. U.S. neocon policies have helped Iran get away from both deep problems almost free of charge. Since then, Iran has been much more active in supporting armed movements or political forces, like Hezbollah, all around the Middle East.

Iran's involvement in Syria and Iraq is no mystery and has become almost an accepted fact since the siege of Tikrit by the Iraqi army, supported by Shiite militias under the command of an Iranian general. The latest intervention by Iran is in Yemen, a country that has been torn apart by various conflicts since 1938. This time, Iran has been supporting the Houthi militia in power in Sanaa against the elected government that has since found shelter in Aden. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has made a very severe declaration against Iran and the very rogue policy of conflict it uses. The reaction came from a relatively low political level. First, Foreign Minister, then the deputy minister declared, "Iran was aiming peace and mutual respect for its relations with foreign countries."

For a country having a very consistent record of rogue policies and blunt military support, the official reaction could have been ridicule; however the situation in the Middle East is far too serious and dangerous to be defined as "ridicule."

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