One of major bottlenecks causing dangers to Islam and its unity has been the infighting, mediocrity, insensibility displayed in relations among Muslim nations. This is also the root-cause for the terror attacks and insults being unleashed on Muslims world over. Relationships among the Arab nations are a case in point and Turkey-Iran ties would be focus of this paper.
Until the 20th century, the interaction between Iran and Turkey evolved around the historical Ottoman-Persian and Shi’i-Sunni rivalries. These two big, neighboring empires had been in latent conflict since they were rivals for the leadership of the whole Islamic world. Although Iranians were successful in agitating and sometimes mobilizing small dissident groups (mainly the Alevi) inside the Ottoman lands, the Ottomans, however, were able to overcome the problems and restrict any Shi’i expansionism. This nature of the traditional relations had changed by the end of the First World War with the establishment of a new republic in Turkey in 1923 and the Pahlavi dynasty in Iran in 1924. Turkey rejected the Ottoman legacy, abandoned any territorial and religious claims, and adopted a nationalist stance in foreign policy that excluded pan-Turkish and pan-Islamic aspirations. The main concern was to Westernize and modernize the country.
On April 22, 1926, the first “Treaty of Friendship” between Iran and Turkey, signed in Tehran. The basic principles included friendship, neutrality and nonaggression towards each other. The agreement also included possible joint actions to groups in the territories of both countries which would try to disturb peace and security or who would try to change the government of one of the countries. This policy was indirectly aimed at the internal problems both countries had with their Kurdish minorities.After the establishment of the Turkish republic, which ended the caliphates and sultanate in Turkey, there have been several Kurdish rebellions since the 1920s.
In July, 1937, a Treaty of Non-aggression is signed between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. This treaty will be known as the Sa’adabad Pact. The purpose of this agreement was to ensure security and peace in the Near East. August 1955. Establishment of CENTO (Central Treaty Organization), a mutual security-pact between Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan and Britain. In July 1964, establishment of RCD (Regional Cooperation for Development), aimed at joint economic projects between Turkey, Iran and Pakistan.
The relations between Iran and Turkey have been generally peaceful since the establishment of the Turkish Republic, but sometimes have also been strained. A period of coldness passed after the 1979 Iranian Revolution which caused major changes in Iran and the world’s status quo. Today Iran and Turkey cooperate in a wide variety of fields that range from fighting terrorism, drug trafficking, and promoting stability in Iraq and Central Asia. Iran and Turkey also have very close trade and economic relations. Both countries are part of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). Turkey receives many Iranian tourists each year and economically benefits from Iranian tourism. Bilateral trade between the nations is increasing. In 2005, the trade increased to $4 billion from $1 billion in 2000.
The revolution had left about 4 million Iranian refugees spread around the world and a large number went to or through Turkey. Estimates differ outlandishly. Some put the figure as low as 250,000, others as high as 1 million.(31) A better estimate might be between 600,000 to 800,000. That huge number of Iranian people inside Turkey posed major threats to Turkish domestic stability and its relations with Iran. Iran accused Turkey of not only permitting but even assisting anti-regime activities, particularly by the Mujahedin-i Khalq Organization (MKO).
Today: Gas Flow
Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ertugrul Apakan who on a state visit to Tehran said on 30 June that Tehran and Ankara have the potential to boost relations in political, parliamentary, economic and cultural fields and recommended frequent exchange of high-ranking delegations. In a positive tone, recently, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Alireza Sheikh-Attar has said that Iran and Turkey are determined to improve relations in all fields. Turkey welcomed the expansion of trade between the two countries and Apakan said that the Iran-Turkey Joint Economic Commission plays a vital role in this connection. Sheikh-Attar and Apakan exchanged views on the leading regional and international developments.
Turkey, a European power, imports energy resources from Arab world as well as Russia, a major oil and gas producer. The Islamic Republic of Iran normally exports 30 million cubic meters of natural gas to Turkey per day, while it imports roughly 23 million daily from Turkmenistan. Meanwhile, Russia’s Gazprom also has said it has increased its exports to Turkey to close the deficit.
Turkey in turn supplies gas to Greece. Iran turned off its gas exports to Turkey on Jan. 7 citing a domestic shortage and cold weather, triggering a domino effect as Turkey in turn shut off its exports to Greece through a newly opened pipeline. Iran says a cut in supplies from Turkmenistan has prompted Tehran to suspend its exports in order to meet demand at home amid freezing temperatures. Iran had said earlier that it would restore its gas flow to Turkey by Jan. 14, but after the deadline came and went Turkey is still buying liquefied natural gas from the spot market to meet demand at home.
Issue of Kurds
The issue of Kurds has been amajor irritant in their ties. Turkey’s treatment of its citizens of Kurdish origin has been a frequent subject of international criticism. Due to the size of their community, the Kurds are viewed as a threat to Turkey’s national security. Kurds have largely resisted forcible assimilation policies of the government since 1930s. The main official strategy for assimilating the Kurds has been suppression of their language. Most Kurds have retained their native tongue, despite the governmental efforts over several decades to promote Turkish among them.
Turkey has been way of fight being waged by Jurdish freedom fighters who seek a spearate nation for themselves. Turkish government has undertaken all psoobile measures inclsing war to quell the freedom movment., but with no fruits. Now Iraqi Kurds also join them to fight for a nation for them together. Today, most Kurds in Turkey live in big cities (like Istanbul) or in Southeastern Turkey. Kurds comprised around 8.5 million out of a total population of 35 million in Turkey (24%). ( Another estimate puts Kurds somewhere between 11,400,000[ and 15,000,000 people.
Kurdish freedom fighting armed movements such as the PKK and KADEK continue to mount actions against the Turkish state and are held responsible for approximately 35,000 casualties of civilians and troops over the past two decades. The PKK, which has bases in northern Iraq, has been fighting for self-rule in southeastern Turkey since 1984. Tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict. The main rebel camp is on Mount Qandil, which sits on the Iraqi-Iranian border. In recent months, the Turkish military has launched several air-strikes on Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq. Iran also has shelled northern Iraq. Tehran says rebels from PEJAK, the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, a group fighting for Kurdish rights in Iran, also have bases on Mount Qandil.
Iran’s nuclear project has further antagonized the USA-Israel combine. Tehran is defying a demand from the UN that it stop the enrichment of uranium. USA and Israel seek penal actions against Iran including a quick war. The UN Security Council approved a third round of sanctions against Iran over the issue in March 2008. Israel has carried out an exercise that appears to have been a rehearsal for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. More than 100 Israeli fighter jets took part in manoeuvres over the eastern Mediterranean and over Greece in the first week of June, US officials said.
The Israeli exercise, it seems, was designed to send a message to Tehran that Israel has the power and will to attack if it thought Iran was close to getting a nuclear weapon. None of what has been said and done so far means an attack on Iran is coming and talk of one faded out after US intelligence reported at the end of 2007 that Iran had given up its nuclear weapons program. Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog, said an attack would put Iran on a “crash course” to building nuclear weapons.
Iran denies its nuclear program is anything other than a peaceful, but Israel sees Iran’s development of the technology as a serious threat. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned on 4 June that drastic measures were needed to stop Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. He said Iran must be shown there will be devastating consequences if it did develop such weapons. In 1981, Israeli jets bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak, 30km (18 miles) outside Baghdad. Israel said it believed the French-built plant was designed to make nuclear weapons that could be used against Israel.
Analysts point out that – as far as is known – Iran has not been producing weapons-grade enriched uranium at its Natanz nuclear facility, but rather low-enriched uranium, which can be used for energy generation. The US state department has criticized reported comments by a defense official that it was increasingly likely Israel would attack Iran in the coming months. The other red line the defense official identified was Iran’s purchase of Russia’s SA-20 air defense equipment. A senior defense official said Iran’s nuclear program was nearing “red lines” that would trigger an Israeli offensive and that if attacked Iran would retaliate against Israel and the US.
The US agenda in Mideast and Europe is no more a secret issue. The United States waging a terror war in Iraq, killing thousands of Muslims there, considers the Iraqi Kurds a serious menace to its Mideast agenda and has been killing them large numbers. USA has labeled the PKK a terrorist organization and supports Turkey’s fight against the group by providing intelligence on the rebels. But it also has urged restraint on Turkey, fearing the fight could undermine efforts to calm Iraq. “The PKK is an enemy of Iraq; it’s an enemy of the United States; it’s an enemy of Turkey; it’s an enemy of the region,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.
USA and Israel make the world believe that Iran will form a threat for most of the regional countries and Israel in particular, and the U.S. also worries about a nuclear arms race in the region if Iran gets weapons. But the fact remains taht Israel is worried taht a powerful Iran could be an additional strength for the Arabs.
Turkey and Iran have been carrying out coordinated strikes on Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq and the two countries have been sharing intelligence and planned more coordinated attacks in the future against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and PEJAK, the group’s Iranian wing. America is pressuring the Turkey ’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, struggling with the closure case nowadays, over the Iranian nuclear standoff. Though it makes a big issue out of the Nuclear weapons allegedly being manufactured by Iran, the USA really knows and believes Iran has not reached the capacity to generate nuclear arms, yet all efforts are not for alternative energy production but for nuclear arms. Americans suggest a dual strategy against Iran: diplomacy and sanctions. They, in return, expect a change in the calculations made by the Islamic regime leadership in Iran, and to keep Iran in negotiations with the United Nations.
Turkey gets involved in the nuclear issue because natural gas deals being on top, Turkey has economic cooperation with Iran. Turkey in fact follows persuasion diplomacy toward Iran, as the Americans give due. Gregory Schulte, U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, was in Ankara April end and said: “We don’t want war” with Iran. According to Schulte, the Iranian administration uses this domestically to prove that Iran is not isolated in the international arena and that everything goes well.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said there was a plot to kill him during a trip he took to Iraq in March, Iranian state radio reports. Ahmadinejad implied that the United States and its allies were behind the alleged plot to kidnap and kill him. During the two-day visit, President Ahmadinejad cancelled a scheduled trip to the cities of Najaf and Karbala, citing security reasons. An American spokesman in Iraq said the United States was unaware of any threats to the president’s life.
For the Iranians, who viewed the United States as the “Great Satan,” the U.S.-Turkish alliance was a matter of criticism as were Ataturk’s reforms that made Turkey want to be part of the Western system of states. Ahmadinejad said the enemies are planning to dominate all countries through a long-term plan and “do not want the regional countries including Iran, Turkey, and Iraq to be powerful and live in peace.”
The revolution changed most of the policies of Iran and all countries of the region, including Turkey, have been affected by this regime change. However, Iranian-Turkish relations during the revolutionary decade were mostly positively affected, particularly in economic terms. They continued to form the basic substructure of the bilateral relationship between these Islamic neighbors.
It seems US threat to Iran on its supposedly nuclear ambitions is more to do with the Kurds issue rather than the nuclear weapons, as ran emerging as a nuclear power wound not affect US fortunes in the region, rather that would ignite a stiff arms race in the region which cannot be avoided just like.
Turkey, a NATO member, is a close ally of the USA and Washington has been using its Turkish connection to pressurize Iran not only to give up Uranium enrichment program, but also keep itself away from Kurds movement. USA supported the Turkish bombing of Kurdish locations in Iraq which is under US occupation now.
Of late, irrespective of the US influence over Turkey, both Iran and Turkey have come to a sort of understanding that the contentious issues could be addressed through cooperation, not by continous confrontations. However, the current low economic ties do not seem to support that view quite correctly.