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Political Discord and Media War Continue to Damage Iran-Turkey Relations

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Elyas Vahedi
Expert on Turkey and Caucasus Affairs

Although in the greater part of their remarks, senior officials of Iran and Turkey note that the two countries share common views on regional issues, the media war, which is going on between the two countries’ journalists, political elites and some middle-ranking officials, makes one believe that a full-fledged war is going on between the two countries. This adverse atmosphere has dominated the public opinion in both countries at a time that in addition to the real will and determination of their senior officials, there is increasing tendency toward further expansion of bilateral relations among ordinary people as well as those active in economic, social and cultural fields in both Iran and Turkey.

Economic delegations that reciprocally visit each country, usually leave the friendly neighboring country with their hands full and with hope radiating from their faces. The same is true about people active in social and cultural fields, who hopefully boast about existence of common social values and cultural heritage between the two countries. Most Iranians who travel to Turkey talk with satisfaction about the Oriental and Islamic hospitality accorded to them as well as about Turkey’s advances in economic, social and cultural fields, which can be a role model for other countries. Inside Iran, commodities produced in Turkey have turned into a favorite brand for most Iranians. On the other hand, when Turkish delegations and people travel to Iran as tourists or researchers, the majority of them are taken by surprise and reach the conclusion that Iran must be seen in a different light and attest to the fact that they had not seen Iran's cultural and social beauties in the right way. This point has been quite evident in reports released on Iran by some Turkish researchers in recent years.

Under such conditions, the severe media war, which is raging between the two countries, is sure to cause inflammation in friendly ties between Iran and Turkey, because in the heat of this cold war, realities are ignored most of the time. However, some misunderstandings, which are enumerated below, can be easily dispelled:

- Unlike what some Turkish media circles claim these days, there has been no direct clandestine dealing between Iran and the United States through mediation of Israel and this claim is being made to scuttle anti-imperialist and anti-Israeli reputation of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In reality, neither the agreement signed over Iran's nuclear program, nor the overlap between the interests of Iran and the United States over certain regional issues can cause the anti-imperialist and anti-Israeli ideas to die in Iran.

- More than being a result of Iran's religious foreign policy, the country’s support for such groups as the Lebanese Hezbollah, Houthis in Yemen and other political groups is aimed to bolster the Islamic Republic’s policy in countering Western-Israeli plans in the region and nondemocratic political systems in Islamic countries. Therefore, taking advantage of such phrases as “Iranian tanks moving toward Mecca,” by some Turkish media and efforts undertaken by apparently Islamist figures, who had a claim to fraternity and friendship with Iran in not so distant past, to cause the world believe that a war is going on between Shias and Sunnis in the region are really surprising.

- Both under absolute rule of secular governments and under the rule of moderate Islamist figures of the Justice and Development Party, Turkey has never been following religious tendencies in its foreign or domestic policies and anything observed in this regard is actually more tied to the country’s political interests. For example, inside the country, Turkey’s Alawites are mostly ignored by the ruling party due to their specific political tendency and their traditional affiliation with the Republican People's Party (CHP), not because Turkish government is more inclined toward Sunnis. Also, in terms of foreign policy and regional developments, Turkey cannot be considered a true supporter of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, but Ankara is just supporting any group opposed to the Syrian government in the hope that they would replace the government of Syria’s Baath Party and President Bashar Assad in the future. In addition, Turkey is supporting Turkmens in Syria and is bent on preventing establishment of an independent or autonomous Kurdish region in northern parts of Syria and close to its border with the Arab country.

- With regard to normalization of Turkey’s relations with Israel, although relations between Turkey and Israel date back to over 65 years ago and it would be incompatible with the realities of Turkish society and conditions in the region to expect those relations to be severed totally, two realities should be also taken into consideration in this regard. Firstly, under the current situation of turmoil in the region and soaring differences among Islamic countries, more inclination toward Israel by Turkey will only intensify differences in the Islamic world, and secondly, the performance of Israel in the past has clearly shown that Tel Aviv often ignores promises that it gives with regard to the Palestinian people. Therefore, further expansion of relations between Turkey and Israel will do a major harm to public demand of people in Turkey, especially the Islamist groups, in their defense of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.

Despite these differences, some middle-ranking officials in Turkey and Iran are beating the drums of discord regardless of the official will and determination of political establishments in the two countries, and they need to get more in line with the official policy of their respective countries. On the other hand, political elites and media people, who currently see themselves on a different par with their societies and only see the negative side of the two countries’ relations, must understand the public demand of the two countries’ people for having friendly and cordial relations and avoid fanning the flames of media tensions. Otherwise, people in both countries, in particular, and across the Islamic world, in general, would lose the opportunity to take advantage of synergistic relations between Iran and Turkey in order to restore peace and stability to the region.

Key WordsPolitical Discord, Media War, Iran, Turkey, Relations, Journalists, Political Elites, Middle-Ranking Officials, Cultural Fields, Tourists, Israel, US, Lebanese Hezbollah, Houthis, Yemen, Justice and Development Party, Republican People's Party, Alawites, Syria, Baath Party, Bashar Assad, Palestine, Vahedi 

More By Elyas Vahedi:

*Turkey to Play New Role in the Region through Normalization of Ties with Israel: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Turkey-to-Play-New-Role-in-the-Region-through-Normalization-of-Ties-with-Israel.htm

*Reduced Tension, Increased Interaction Are New Features of Iran-Turkey Relations: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Reduced-Tension-Increased-Interaction-Are-New-Features-of-Iran-Turkey-Relations.htm

*Measuring Wrong Threat in Turkey’s Media and Elite Circles: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Measuring-Wrong-Threat-in-Turkey-s-Media-and-Elite-Circles.htm

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