After the end of the Cold War, Russia withdrew from global competition for a while. While the notion of a new world order, first expressed by U.S. President George W. Bush, placed the United States as the supreme guardian of the world, its unchallenged and unrivaled super power status led the U.S. to make serious mistakes. Unconcerned with the rules of the United Nations, U.S. administrations took unlawful, illegitimate and uncontrolled steps with an arrogant arbitrariness, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, at the end of which the Middle East became a bloody battlefield of newly emerging international competition.
Although the destructive power of the U.S. has not yet faded away, its constructive power has serious drawbacks. Indeed, all leading Western powers seem to lose their capacity to construct order and justice in the world. Regarding the issue of global terrorism, a British academic once said: "Today, the greatest trouble of the Western world is the lack of good leadership. Deprived of great leaders, Western countries cannot solve their own troubles, let alone pull the world together.
While formerly leading powers gradually lose their superiority, new states are currently coming to the forefront of the global arena. Apart from the indisputable rise of China and India, Russia took the stage again due to the reckless mistakes made by President Barack Obama's administration during the Syrian civil war.
Regarding the Middle East and Asia, Turkey, as the heir of the Ottoman Empire, and Iran, with its ancient Persian tradition, are two other significant countries that are also on the rise. The competition between these two countries is deep-rooted in history to such an extent that their territorial borders have remained unchanged since the Treaty of Qasr-e Shirin was signed between the Ottoman and Safavid Empires in 1639. In fact, since both the Ottoman and Safavid Empires were founded and ruled by Turkish sultans and Azeri shahs, the given competition had been a competition between two types of Turkish leaders.
As Iran entered the post-Cold War era with its revolution in 1979, the U.S. put pressure on the country with economic and military sanctions. Such an exclusionary attitude on Iran produced a country that is strong in terms of military capacity, but weak in economic and social development. Thus, Iran appears in the world stage with a stern face.
Turkey, on the other hand, entered the post-Cold War era under the leadership of Prime Minister and later President Turgut Özal, a charismatic and innovative political leader. Realizing significant reforms in the fields of democracy, industry, trade and tourism, Özal claimed that the 21st century would be the century of the Turks. Yet, when Özal passed away, crooked politicians and military bureaucrats led the country into a political and economic crisis, which could only be resolved by the Justice and Development Party coming to power in 2002.
With the emergence of the Syrian civil war, the ancient and productive competition between Turkey and Iran entered a challenging period. Before the eruption of the Syrian civil war, Iran had been in a nuclear crisis with Western countries. Thanks in part to support from Turkey and Brazil in the U.N., the crisis was resolved before its prospective escalation into a regional war. When the Iranian nuclear crisis was resolved in the U.N., I was in Iran where I was surprised to see that Iranian officials were not content with Turkey's support.
The competition between Iran and Turkey had come to the forefront of the Syrian civil war. While Russia openly supports Iran, the Obama administration failed to support its historical ally Turkey and strengthened its rival's hand. With its imperial aspirations, Iran aims at regaining political dominance in Syria, Iraq and Yemen by relying on militia forces and regional alliances.
Turkey's regional status, however, has significantly increased thanks to its active participation in the resolution process for the Syrian civil war, its contribution to the Palestinian cause and its military operations in northern Syria with Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch, currently ongoing. Despite Iranian discontent, Turkey appears to continue its rise in its region of political influence.