Turkey and Iran’s past, present and future similarities in the Middle East

HÜSAMETTIN İNAÇ
Published

The division and deterioration in Iran paves the way to destabilize Turkey and encourage Middle Eastern states that want to change regimes or governments for the sake of their own interests. That is why the same foreign powers that tried to further fuel this in Middle Eastern countries – most recently in Iran – attempt to judge Turkey in the international courts, declaring it an insecure country. Discrediting Turkish banks and suspending visa services are the same powers' efforts to drag Turkey into eco-political chaos and collapse.

Turkey and Iran resemble one another greatly in terms of their histories and recent developments. They are also very similar in that they both stand against the international community. There have been efforts to integrate both of them into the international system in the past decade. In particular, they tried to persuade Turkey to adopt the concept of moderate Islam invented by Richard Holbrooke at the edge of planning the Greater Middle East project in the aftermath of the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. According to Holbrooke, Islam is bound to be transformed in line with Western interests. That is why Turkey should adopt his vision of moderate Islam. However, Turkey naturally rejected behaving according to this ill-minded, irrational plan. Indeed, the term moderate Islam is used by Western powers to create hegemony with regard to Middle Eastern countries and Turkey.

In the period of time when Turkey had a mission to act on behalf of the West under the auspices of NATO, Iran had very strong ties with the West. Almost all oil resources were transported by means of Western oil companies.

Oppose and face pressure

Whenever Turkey began changing its Western-oriented foreign policy, the above-mentioned powers attempted to re-align it through coups and military interventions. In addition to domestic crises, they also tried to destabilize Turkey's foreign policies such as with the Georgia and Ukraine conflicts in 2005 and the Arab Spring. Turkey was attacked on July 15, 2016, by the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) in a deadly coup attempt.

Coincidentally, Iran was fighting British, U.S. and Russian imperialisms during this time. Iran followed a foreign policy independent of the U.S. It was first denounced as a rogue state and then subjected to very ruthless international sanctions. Most recently, it saw destabilization during the Mashhad protests that spread to more than 40 cities similar to the Gezi Park protests in Turkey.

2017 was a challenging year

The last two years were very challenging for Turkey in terms of security and foreign policy. However, 2017 ended with Turkey reaching some substantial results at the most critical points, showing very prudent approaches in accordance with the newly establishing world order. The new foreign policy vision adopted by Ankara played a big role in it, leading to new gains because it was rational, realistic, factual not only discourse.

Confronting terrorists

Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield against terrorist groups was certainly the primary parameter demonstrating that the country is able to overpower Daesh and the PKK-affiliated Democratic Union Party's (PYD) People's Protection Units (YPG). The operation also showed that Ankara is able to negotiate with Russia. With the counterterrorism offensive, Turkey blocked the YPG- terror corridor near its border with Syria. Moreover, it also prevented the plan to inactivate its role in neighboring countries in the Middle East and to change the pipeline of energy transportation.

In the diplomacy arena, the Astana talks were one of the most considerable steps taken by the strategic alliance of Turkey, Iran and Russia, as an alternative and complement to the Geneva talks with regard to diplomatic bargaining. In the Qatar crisis, Ankara again was on the stage with a balanced approach to prevent the crisis from increasing by not struggling with Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) then President Masoud Barzani announced that Iraqi Kurdistan would go to the polls for an independence referendum.

This discriminatory and separatist policy was invalidated in cooperation with Iraq and Iran. Iraqi politics were rescued from being constrained by Barzani's narrow-minded vision. In the case of Jerusalem, Ankara achieved diplomatic success and mobilized the Islamic world against the U.S.'s insolence. The U.S. was isolated at the U.N. and Turkey gave a message to the rest of the world about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. One of the most positive developments for Turkish diplomacy was in Africa. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visit to African countries showed how important Turkey is for them.

How did it happen?

The answer is very simple. Turkey changed its out-of-date paradigm and adopted a more rational policy, engaging with the realities of the world's new age. With this new diplomacy, Ankara clarified its priorities and produced strong, coherent strategies.

During this period, Iran's foreign policy had many common motives with Turkey's, particularly in its seeking a strategic opening as a pivotal power and having an independent character.

In fact, the two countries' similarities are not something new. Having common features, the two societies include various ethnicities, religions, sects and languages and experienced the modernization process that compelled them to establish nation-states by interrupting their respective empires. Probably the most valuable commonality is that their governing elites were Turks. Iran was governed by Azeri rulers or dynasties for approximately 1,000 years. On the other hand, Turkish people borrowed almost all terminology about religious practices from the Persian language.

In the first half of the 20th century, Iran established a modern, secular state, adopted a capitalist economy and transformed social stratification dependent on capitalist production and consumption. Meanwhile, this period saw the rapid Westernization process in Turkey. The newly established Republic of Turkey took steps for reforms, improvements and revolution. In the following years, both Turkey and Iran fought against imperialism, sought total independence and saw national will rise from their national struggles. The similarities have continued up to today. Thus, it is safe to say that Turkey and Iran had very similar processes in establishing their modern nation-states.

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