Karim Sadjadpour, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, recently recalled what an Arab Shiite friend of his reminded him: “Iran wants to fight America and Israel down to the last Palestinian, Lebanese and Iraqi.” In contrast, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey, most probably, wants to fight America and Israel down to the last Palestinian, Lebanese, Iraqi and Iranian.
Since the spectacular ascension to power in late 2002 of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, secularist Turks have accused Turkey’s new elite of having a hidden agenda to turn Turkey into Iran. This column, however, has invariably argued that Iran would be the last role model for Turkey’s Islamist rulers. No, it was not only the unbridgeable sectarian difference; it was far more complex than that.
True, Iranian petrodollars are used to finance Islamic radicals like Khaled Meshaal in Syria, Moktada al-Sadr in Iraq and Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon. True, the same petrodollars may have been used to finance less radical Turks through lucrative energy deals in Iran for the power center’s most beloved in Turkey.
True, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran and Erdoğan’s Turkey may be sharing a lot not necessarily in terms of love but of hate – hatred for the damned infidels. It is also true that the two neighbors have enjoyed a war-less history since 1639, despite long periods of hostility, rivalry, deep hostility, near-war, almost-war and cold war. But their differences are by nature divided and often mutually exclusive despite their common unnamed foreign policy doctrine in favor of “neo-Third Worldism.”
Erdoğan and his men, for the Shiite mullahs in Tehran, are too Western, too little Muslim, too Sunni and too shrewd (for a Turk); they are probably a modern-day Trojan Horse in the eyes of their Shiite neighbors. And Ahmadinejad’s Iran, for the Sunni mullahs in Ankara, is too Shiite, discreetly too hostile/rivaling, too ambitious and possibly too unreliable. As one AKP “foreign policy connoisseur” recently told me: “We know they are suspicious about us despite all the polish on the outset. And they know we know.” Sounds like a challenging chess game.
Tehran’s suspicion that Ankara is probably “too Western and a modern-day Trojan Horse” was once again confirmed when late last month Turkey announced that it seized a cache of small arms and ammunitions aboard an Iranian cargo plane bound for Syria. Complying with and successfully executing a U.N. mandate that bans Iranian arms exports, Turkey, deservedly, won Western hearts and minds.
And the confirmation for Ankara’s suspicion that Tehran is probably too unreliable did not come too late when Iran touched a raw Turkish nerve. The mullahs have permitted the screening of Rigran Khzmalyan’s “Armin Wegner – Genocide Photographer” film which Tehran will host on April 24, adding flavor to the political meaning. The film on the Armenian genocide may also be broadcast on one of Iranian TV channels, newspapers reported. So, the show has been not much different across the Turkish-Iranian border since 1639.
Fast forward to 2005, an article in the British satire publication Private Eye read: “America and Britain today gave a stark warning to Iran that, unless it curbs its nuclear ambitions, they will do nothing. The fact that – the article then quotes former President George W. Bush as saying – unlike Iraq, Iran actually will have weapons of mass destruction that means both [British Prime Minister] Tony [Blair] and I are committed to doing nothing.” Those were the days when, as the headline of an article in this column read, Iran was “trouble, opportunity or both.” Six years later, “both” looks like the right answer.
And then fast forward to 2011, the fundamental – though not fundamental enough to block opportunist deals – differences between the makers and traders of fine Iranian carpets – Iranians and Turks – are still there: Muslim Turks want “smaller Israel,” whereas Muslim Iranians want “no Israel.”
The trouble is that the mullahs think they are smarter than all evil foreign men. They may be right. But they should not underestimate the Sunni mullahs, be they in Ankara or in Pennsylvania.
Source : Hurriyet Daily News