The Case of Syria and Future Outlook of Tehran-Ankara Relations

Monday, January 11, 2016

Mohammad Ali Dastmali
Expert on Turkey Affairs

The profound difference between Iran and Turkey about the nature of the ongoing crisis in Syria and the quality of the decision that must be made to resolve this crisis has turned into a serious bone of contention in relations between the two countries, which can no longer be simply described by using such mellow terms as “difference in viewpoint.” Tehran and Ankara have totally different viewpoints and conflicting interests when it comes to political structure in Syria and the fate of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the position and ranks of his opposition, the best way to fight against Takfiri terrorist groups such as Daesh, and other issues of this sort. However, and despite the importance of such points, which have turned the case of Syria into one of the most challenging issues in the history of relations between the two countries in recent years, the idea that can be still defended is this: “No subject, even as grave as the issue of Syria, can and should be allowed to do serious damage to Tehran’s relations with Ankara and cause long-term freeze or even downgrading of relations between the two sides.”

To enumerate the most important reasons for defending this idea, we can point out the following instances:

1. Relations between Iran and Turkey in contemporary times in addition to foundations as well as historical, religious and cultural commonalities that govern these relations, are among important assets of both countries. Therefore, ignoring this huge capacity will harm both countries, and any kind of stagnation and freeze in these relations will deal blows to the interests and expediencies of the two countries not only in the long run, but also in medium term.

2. For Turkey, Iran is the gateway to the east while Turkey is the gateway to the west for Iran and, on the basis of the most obvious principles and fundaments of the political geography, the borders between Iran and Turkey are among the most important borders in the region from political, security and economic viewpoints.

3. If such a subtle and sensitive concept as “rivalry” is not correctly redefined in Tehran’s relations with Ankara, and instead of the two countries’ statesmen, media outlets or other countries are allowed to set the stage around this concept, in that case delicate lines and boundaries that exist between friendship and hostility will be easily ignored. Under such state of affairs, the potential of both Iran and Turkey, as two important countries in the region, will be spent on conflict and showing reciprocal reactions, instead of being used to boost synergy between Tehran and Ankara in order to bolster the power of the Islamic world. Such conditions can, in the long term, cause the balance of the political power in the region to tilt toward Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other actors, instead of Iran and Turkey, and in parallel, rising tensions between Iran and Turkey will benefit Israel in an unbelievable and surprising manner.

4. Iran and Turkey have signed a security cooperation agreement and have also established a High Council for Strategic Cooperation. Also, in addition to energy sector and other capacities that exist for economic cooperation, the two countries enjoy huge potential for boosting interaction and cooperation in cultural and diplomatic areas and if bilateral relations remain in their current state, this potential will gradually lose its effectiveness.

5. Although relations between Iran and Turkey have not yet reached the level of crisis and very serious tension, mutual visits by the two countries’’ officials have reduced in frequency and it is time to set up councils and committees in order to bring back the past dynamism to these relations in cooperation with the two countries’ political and civil institutions as well as through cooperation of scientific and academic figures both in Iran and Turkey.

Key WordsSyria, Iran, Turkey, Future Outlook, Tehran-Ankara Relations, Bashar Assad, Takfiri Terrorist Groups, Stagnation, Political Geography, Rivalry, Synergy, Islamic World, Balance, Political Power, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Security Cooperation, Crisis, Tension, Mutual Visits, Dastmali

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*Photo Credit: CNN

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