Iran and Turkey : A Return to “Kemalism”?

A very interesting article from the American Interest, about the Turkish-Iranian relations, and the Turkish foreign policy in the Middle East. See “Turkey at the Turning Point”, February 2016.

The article refers to the Turkish Prime Minister’s recent visit to Iran, which was the first after two years. According to American Interest, Erdogan and Davutoglu are turning towards a more neo-Kemalist approach, moving away from their neo-Ottoman approach, in the sense that the emphasis will now be more on internal security i.e. the Kurds and the PKK, and less on Turkey’s influence over the Middle East.

American Interest characterizes the recent effort for a normalization in the Iranian-Turkish approach as “Kurd-Centered”, because the Kurds of Turkey (PKK) and the Kurds of Iran (KDPI) are at the epicenter of this effort. Turkey is already at a war with the PKK in East Turkey, and Iran might also go to a war with the Kurds of Iran (KDPI). See “The Kurds VS Iran”

Map 1 Kurdistan

Map of Kurdistan

The article implies that Turkey will stop pushing for the overturn of Bashar al Assad, the Syrian dictator, the strongest Iranian ally in the Middle East. Because accepting Bashar al Assad is a precondition for a Turkish-Iranian normalization in Syria. A normalization between Iran and Turkey would affect the Iranian-Russian relations. See also “(Russia+Israel) and (Turkey+Iran)”?

A few days ago some news agencies reported that Russia might cancel the delivery of the S-300 missiles to Iran. See “Following talks with Israel, Putin freezes S-300 sale to Iran”, March 2016

Russia also supports the Kurds of the PKK. It is true of course that the Iranians will not have to attack the PKK if they reach an agreement with the Turks. They will only have to accept Turkey’s right to attack the PKK, and the Turks will accept Iran’s right to attack the KDPI. After all the Iranians do not want an independent Kurdistan either in Syria, Iraq or Turkey, because the Kurds of Iran could make similar claims.

I am not sure that the American Interest is right when it talks about a turn to “neo-Kemalism” from “neo-Ottmanism”. I think it is unlikely for Iran and Turkey to fully normalize their relations if oil and gas are not part of the deal, and if the Iranians will not agree to export gas and oil to Europe through Turkey and not thorugh Syria. The Turks would have to accept lower commissions and discounts, and also accept Bashar al Assad in Syria. I still call this “neo-Ottomanism”, even if it is a softer one.

If Turkey and Iran reach an agreement, there will be a big change in the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East, and there will be a Turkish-Iranian-American axis against Russia. I am not saying that this is what will happen, because things change so fast, and you can not tell what is a true geopolitical shift, and what is simply a bluff.

I must also say that if by any chance the Turks accept Bashar al Assad in Syria, and become allies with the Iranians, the Russians will approach the Arabs of the Gulf and ask for Bashar al Assad to go.

“Turkey at the Turning Point”, February 2016

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