Iran's expansionist discourse unfortunately hurts not only the region but also Islam, creating the perception that there is a war between Sunnis and Shiites. That's why Turkey and its leader have raised their voices against Iran's sectarian politics
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan drew attention to "Persian expansionism" in the region during his address at the International Peace Institute meeting in Bahrain on the first leg of his three-nation tour of the region.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry reacted by hinting that Turkey is encouraging terrorism.
We have been talking about Persian expansionism in our region for years. Iran has been using the Shiite sect as a lever to promote Persian expansionism and unfortunately has exploited the Shiite Arabs in the Gulf and elsewhere to further this cause.
Iran has occupied three islands belonging to the United Arab Emirates in the Hormuz Straits, which is a clear sign of Persian intentions in the region. Iran could say it wants to control the oil lanes of the Gulf where 20 percent of global oil shipments are carried out. Yet, when Iran starts steering trouble in Bahrain as it encourages the Shiites in the country to revolt, this falls into the category of intransigence that is simply unacceptable.
The fact that Iranian generals and members of the National Guard are actively involved in Iraq to the extent that they interfere in the internal politics of the country is another form of Persian muscle flexing.
Isn't Iran behind the Shiite militants in Yemen? Aren't the Iranian militants hurling missiles at a Saudi warship and even Riyadh from Yemen. Aren't these Iranian missiles? Isn't Iran knee deep in Syria helping the Assad regime? Hasn't Iran lost many of its soldiers and even high ranking officers in the Syrian civil war? What is Iran doing in Syria? There are rumors that Bashir Assad was so concerned about Iran's growing influence in Syria that he actually invited the Russians to save his regime from being swallowed up by Persian expansionism.
What the Iranians are doing in the region is stirring up trouble and sharpening the divides among Muslims. They are using the Shiite sect to further their aims, which is creating the image that Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims are involved in a general regional war.
In fact that is not the case. Shiites and Sunnis alike are aware that Islam is under assault from all sides and that Iran in fact is only playing into the hands of those who want to bring Islam into disrepute.
Turkey has no grudge against Iran. Ankara has always defended Iran against the assaults of the West. Turkey mediated the nuclear deal between Iran and the Western powers. Turks feel respect for the Tehran regime and has never been involved in any open or secret dealings against Iran. From the late Turgut Özal to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish leaders have always been opposed to Western sanctions against Iran. Turks regard the people of Iran as their relatives especially as a huge portion of the Iranian population are Azeri Turks. Turkey has never sponsored terrorist acts against Iran yet we do see at times some elements in Iran collaborating with the PKK, which has been waging a secessionist war in Turkey.
So when President Erdoğan talks about Persian expansionism the leaders in Tehran should take the hint and realize that they are trying to maintain an unsustainable situation that is not only hurting regional stability but is bringing the good name of Islam into disrepute.