Pax Ottomana vs. Persian Warmongering?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Behzad Khoshandam
PhD Student in International Relations

Active ImageRelations between Turkey and the United States have developed into a strategic dimension following the World War II. Despite strategic nature of those relations, they have been greatly influenced by interactions between Washington and Tehran during the past 30 years.

The Islamic Revolution in 1979 led to total severance of Iran-US ties making Iran a non-aligned state. As a result, belligerence has been the dominant feature of Tehran – Washington relation since 30 years ago and, as put by Kenneth Pollack, the United States has been forced into adopting a containment strategy toward Iran.

The United States and its western allies have consistently tried over the past three decades to get Turkey in line with their policy on Iran. Washington’s support for the Turkish military and efforts made to keep Turkey at a safe distance from Iran as well as further action taken to bolster Turkey’s ties to Israel were major highlights of the US strategy to contain Iran.

Recent propaganda about deployment of a missile shield by NATO in Turkey to fight off the so-called Iran’s missile threat was the latest instance of hostile measures taken by the west and NATO to continue Iran containment policy in the concluding months of 2010. Although there has been much debate about the main reason behind the decision to establish the missile shield, many experts believe that the shield is not only supposed to avert missile threat from Iran, but from Russia as well.

A more important issue related to the establishment of a missile shield in Turkey is why international system has chosen a country like Turkey to confront Iran and restrict its international interactions.

Experiences gained over the past 30 years have clearly proven that any effort to isolate Iran from strategic equations of the world has not been to the benefit of the international system.

Adoption of such an approach by transregional players toward Iran as well as their priorities and various roles assigned to regional players, is in stark contrast to the traditional model of “power balance” and is aimed at overlooking the role of such important regional players as Iran.

Active ImageContinuation of this approach in the coming years and concentration of the international community on special players in strategic parts of the world will not be to the best interest of international strategic interactions.

The model chosen for Turkey’s role is especially interesting. Following internal conflicts between Kemalist and Islamist politicians over the past eight years, the new Turkish government has proven beyond any doubt that the “honeymoon” period in relations with the west has come to an end and the country aims to meet as much as its national interests as possible.

On the other hand, despite differences with the west, Iran enjoys much potential for interaction at international level. Apart from strategic and geopolitical advantages for solving regional and international problems, the political structure in the country has also become more pragmatic and ready for more interaction with international system.

Therefore, to solve certain international issues, the concluding months of 2010 provide a good window of opportunity to look at Iran as a player going for interaction, peace and stability, rather than tension and challenge.

So, the question is why Turkey, as heir apparent to Pax Ottomana, can be considered a pacifist country while Iran is still depicted a warmonger?

Every country enjoys its own special weight in international interplays and inattention to true status of a country like Iran is only based on incorrect premises.When it comes to international interaction and decision-making, Pax Iranica is as true as Pax Ottomana. Looking at Iran as a country which advocates peace will undermine the current isolationist approach that aims to introduce Iran as a cause of international tension and crisis. This will pave the way for Iran to take strategic advantage of its stabilizing potentials at regional and international levels.