Experts: Iran likely to continue facing isolation if it carries on aggressive stance
by Özge Karagöz
ANKARAFeb 22, 2017 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Özge Karagöz
Feb 22, 2017 12:00 am
Recent diplomatic tension between Turkey and Iran that began when Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi accused Turkey of "supporting terrorist groups" in Syria are heating up as Turkish officials have retaliated by refuting Tehran's claims and referring to Iranian policy in the Middle East as nationalistic and sectarian. Experts have indicated that Tehran, which has already been isolated by the Trump administration, will be even further sidelined if it continues its aggressive stance toward countries in the region. As Turkish-Iranian tensions intensify, Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ambassador Hüseyin Müftüoğlu late Monday slammed his Iranian counterpart for his remarks on Turkey. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Qassemi accused Turkey of "supporting terrorist groups" in Syria, in retaliation for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu's criticism of Iran's nationalist and sectarian policies.
President Erdoğan had criticized Iran for sectarianism in the region and Iran has come under fire numerous times for its support of Shiite militants in Syria and Iraq. "There is Persian nationalism in the Middle East. We are against the division of Syria and Iraq but there are people who seek a divided region," Erdoğan said on Feb. 12. In response to top Turkish officials' criticism last week, Iranian spokesman Quassemi's remarks that those who supported terrorist groups in the region to escalate tensions to achieve their own gains cannot evade liability for such moves by playing a blame game. Spokesman Hüseyin Müftüoğlu harshly responded to the criticism, saying "It is incomprehensible and unacceptable that a country which does not hesitate from driving refugees to the battlefield accuse others of causing instability and tension in the region." While Müftüoğlu underlined that Quassemi's remarks that Iran's regional policies are "appreciated" and "found just" are contradictory and complaints indicated on the U.N. and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, "It is expected from Iran that it takes constructive steps and reviews its regional policies instead of accusing countries that criticize its policies," Müftüoğlu added.
While tension between Turkey and Iran remains an issue on the agenda of Ankara, , Turkey's present and future position have been assessed by experts who spoke with Daily Sabah. To emphasized the tension between Turkey and Iran, which has been going on for a long time, Hakkı Uygur from the Center for Iranian Studies (IRAM) said the deterioration in the relations between the two countries began with the Arab Spring, which had an influence on Syria: "However, the deteriorating relations are related to political developments in the U.S and relatively regional developments," Uygur added. Regarding Erdoğan criticism of Iran during his Bahrain visit earlier this month, Uygur said Erdoğan gave a message to Iran while visiting Bahrain on his tour of three Gulf states which conveyed Turkey's stiff position against Iran, especially with regards to Syria and Iraq. Furthermore, Uygur also highlighted the effect newly elected U.S. President Donald Trump will have on Iran, noting: "If the Trump administration gives Iran a hard time on any matter, I do not expect that Turkey will not take Iran's side," Uygur added, stating that the tension would not remain at the same level because Iran's awareness of Turkey's importance will likely not challenge it.
Dr. Hasan Basri Yalçın from the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) indicated that although Turkey and Iran had negotiated during the Astana peace talks at the same table, tensions between the two countries are based on the Syrian conflict, noting: "When we analyzed Turkey's clarification on the allegations that Iran is sending back Syrian refugees after rearming them. It is no secret that Iran pursues politics to spark sectarian conflict in the region, which Turkey called out at the diplomatic level," Yalçın added. Analogous to Uygur, Dr. Yalçın emphasized that the future of Turkish-Iranian relations depend heavily on the U.S. position under the Trump administration as well as the Astana peace talks, the Syrian Civil War and the position of Russia as well. Yalçın shared Uygur's sentiments that Turkey is not likely to take a stand with Iran in case the U.S. puts pressure on them whereas Turkey had made an effort to diminish the pressure on Iran in the nuclear embargo in the past. "Iran is not a successful state to pursue diplomatic ties. It got a reaction due to ballistic missile test-fire where Trump did not give positive messages to Iran," Yalçın said.