Turkey Removes Iran from “Red Book” Threat List

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Elias Vahedi

Active ImageNew edition of Turkey’s “Red Book” which delineates the country’s security policies and is considered “secret constitution” of Turkey is going through final stages of preparation and is to be approved in a meeting of the country’s Supreme National Security Council (which comprises senior state and military officials led by the Prime Minister) in December 2010. The policies which are designed by ministries of interior and foreign affairs, Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Intelligence Organization (MIT) (1), and secretariat of the Supreme National Security Council will set the course of Turkey’s government in security matters for the next five years.

The most evident change in the document is removal of four neighboring countries (Greece, Russia, Iraq, and Iran) from the threat list in line with the ruling Justice and Development Party’s “zero problems” approach to diplomacy with its neighbors. All four countries had been designated as threats against Turkey in the previous edition of the document (2005).

Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, “export of the revolution” had been included in the Red Book under the title of ideological threats and this had been repeated in 2005 edition. In addition, Iran’s nuclear capability and possible proliferation of nuclear weapons by Tehran had been considered a direct threat against Turkey. However, Iran has been nowhere mentioned as a threat in the new version of Ankara’s security policies and while expressing concern about Tehran’s access to nuclear weapons and lack of democracy in Iran, emphasis has been put on establishing a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East through cooperation among regional countries. The aforesaid four countries had been mentioned as direct threats to Turkey in 2005 edition of the Red Book. Now, they have been considered economic partners in a possible future economic alliance.

A new approach has been also taken to assessment of security threats in the new edition of the Book. Religious extremism is no more a security threat. As for separatist tendencies and activities of PKK terrorist group, special importance has been attached to security cooperation with Iran and Iraq.

The new security approach taken by Ankara indicates domination of political ideas of Justice and Development Party over previous military approaches. Unlike three decades ago when the military decided security policies, the new policies are currently in line with moderate views both in domestic and foreign matters and analysts have noted that in addition to realistic viewpoints of Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, Prime Minister Erdogan has been personally involved in formulating them.

New changes in the Red Book indicate further strengthening of Justice and Development Party. In 2005 edition, three years after the Party had won the presidential election the military was still in full control of security areas. Due to domination of political ideas of Justice and Development Party since 2007 and in view of new limitations considered for generals by the government, the national security is now under control of politicians more than any time before. It seems that if proposed amendments to the constitution were approved, Turkish statesmen would have broader powers as compared to the military. If Justice and Development Party managed to win the next election, its powers were sure to further increase in various areas, especially with regard to the national security matters.

These changes in Ankara’s security policies will have dramatic impacts on the national interests of the neighboring countries. Although Turkey has considered nuclear Iran a threat to its national security during the past few years, in practice, it has cooperated more than other countries with Tehran. Since policies stipulated in the Red Book are obligatory for all state bodies, Ankara seems likely to put up more resistance to the west’s sanctions against Iran (especially Washington’s unilateral sanctions) in the years to come. Of course, if those sanctions were adopted by international bodies, it would be more difficult for Turkey to defy them. Changes in Turkey’s security policies cover different countries. Therefore, western countries and Turkey’s opposition cannot charge Ankara with undue support for Iran and Erdogan will be more at ease in promoting his government’s policies.

(1) Milli Istihbarat Teskilati

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