Turkish-Iranian Relations in a Changing Middle East

Turkish-Iranian Relations in a Changing Middle East

F. Stephen Larrabee
Alireza Nader
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 58
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  • Book Info
    Turkish-Iranian Relations in a Changing Middle East
    Book Description:

    Turkey and Iran tend to be rivals rather than close partners, despite sharing certain economic and security interests. For instance, Turkey supports the opposition in Syria, while Iran supports the regime. Turkey is further concerned about a possible nuclear arms race in the Middle East. U.S. and Turkish interests in the region closely overlap, but the United States should not expect Turkey to follow its policy toward Iran unconditionally.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-8035-6
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Summary
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  7. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    The political destiny of the Middle East has been significantly shaped by the rivalry for regional power and influence between Turkey and Iran. While dormant for much of modern times, this rivalry has led to great conflict and bloodshed throughout history. But Turkey and Iran are more than just historical and strategic rivals. They are also the source of each other’s deep-seated fears and anxieties.

    The Iranian national epic, theShahname, depicted the ancient kingdom of Turan (associated with the Turkic people in Central Asia) as Iran’s ultimate nemesis.¹ Iran was often at the mercy of Turkic tribes from Central...

  8. CHAPTER TWO Turkey and Iran in a Changing Middle East
    (pp. 5-14)

    After the end of World War II, Turkey concentrated its primary attention on improving ties to the West. Except for a brief period in the mid-l950s, relations with the Middle East were largely neglected. In the last decade, however, Turkey has rediscovered the Middle East and emerged as an increasingly important actor in the region.

    The more-active Turkish engagement in the Middle East in recent years does not mean that Turkey is turning its back on the West or that its policy has become “Islamicized.” Rather, the opening to the Middle East represents an attempt to adapt Turkish policy to...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Israel and the Palestinian Issue
    (pp. 15-16)

    Turkey’s past close military and intelligence ties with Israel were a consistent concern for Iran’s decisionmakers. The Israeli-Turkish rapprochement in the 1990s placed Iran’s chief regional ally, Syria, in a delicate position. Syria’s economic and military capabilities were inferior to those of Israel and Turkey individually; their combined weight could spell disaster for Syrian interests and perhaps even present a threat to the survival of the Assad regime.¹

    Turkey’s close defense ties to Israel also presented a direct threat to Iran’s national security. Iran feared that Israel could use Turkey to launch military attacks against Iran. Israeli jet fighters’ use...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Central Asia and the Caucasus
    (pp. 17-22)

    Turkish-Iranian competition is not solely focused on the Middle East. The two countries also vie for influence in the Caucasus and Central Asia and, increasingly, across the developing and Muslim worlds. However, the competition between the two beyond the Middle East is not as intense and consequential. Iran has maintained a relatively low profile in Central Asia and the Caucasus; its brand of revolutionary Islam has constrained its ability to influence the Caucasus and Central Asia. More importantly, Russia is the region’s premier power. Moscow’s influence is more extensive in Central Asia and the Caucasus than that of Turkey or...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE The Nuclear Issue
    (pp. 23-30)

    The Iranian nuclear program is one of the most sensitive and controversial issues in Turkish-Iranian relations. The outcome of Iran’s nuclear drive will have significant implications not only for bilateral relations between Turkey and Iran but also for the two countries’ relations with their neighbors, allies, and adversaries. A nuclear Iran could have a significant effect on the regional military balance in the Middle East and could force Turkey to rethink aspects of its military posture.

    Iran’s nuclear program is largely motivated by a sense of fear and vulnerability. The U.S. defeat of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein demonstrated America’s...

  12. CHAPTER SIX The Economic Dimension
    (pp. 31-34)

    Turkey and Iran may be divided on a number of regional issues, but economic relations between the two have been strong and offset some of the tensions over geopolitical differences. Economic relations between Turkey and Iran have undergone a significant expansion in the last decade. Trade between Turkey and Iran rose from $1 billion in 2000 to $10 billion in 2010. The two sides plan to triple the volume of trade to $30 billion.¹ Energy has been an important driver of the expansion of economic ties with Tehran. Iran is the second-largest supplier of natural gas to Turkey, behind Russia....

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Prospects for the Future
    (pp. 35-38)

    Since the end of 2011, relations between Ankara and Tehran have become increasingly strained. At the same time, Turkey has sought to firm up ties to NATO and the United States. The key question is how relations are likely to develop in the future. Do recent differences with Tehran represent a temporary blip in relations? Or do they reflect more fundamental differences that are likely to lead to an open confrontation between Ankara and Tehran?

    There are no easy answers to these questions. The path ahead is fraught with considerable uncertainty. Much will depend on the evolution of the crisis...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 39-46)