The constant factors in the Turkish-Iranian relations have always been stronger than the changing factors of these relations. This is why it is possible to set the upper limit for improving relations and minimizing their discontent when comparing between the Turkish-Iranian relations and relations of Turkey with the rest of the Middle East countries, we observe the institutional and unified nature of Turkish and Iranian governments gives them the opportunity to manage these relations by separating the areas of relations under the heads of different pens.
For example, the Turkish-Iranian relations can be mentioned after the end of the Iranian Revolution or in 1990, during which the concern of Turkish regime at that time reached its peak due to the spread of Islamic politics and the Kurdish issue or the geopolitical breakdown that pervaded the Middle East and developed with the beginning of the war in Syria. Turkish-Iranian relations have maintained their progress in many areas such as economy; energy and tourism, while there have been major disturbances and crises in the context of political relations. In this context, the factors that prevent the collapse of Turkish-Iranian relations fully play an important role in determining the upper limit for improved relations between the two governments. There are also factors to help in determining the nature of the political power of the two countries in addition to the nature and functioning of relations independently.
That the geopolitical visions and expectations of the forces resulting from the nature of the two global states in this geography lead to creating an atmosphere of strategic disagreement between the two countries, and we have seen the reflections of this fact on the ground in recent times, for example, despite the meeting of Turkey, Russia and Iran in Astana and Sochi, Turkey has fought many battles against Shiite militias supported by Iran in the states of Afrin and Idlib Syria, and Iran is the most opposition country to the implementation of the Afrin operation since its inception, in addition to the Iranian position opposed to the presence of Turkey in Iraq in general and in Bashiqa in particular to has not shown any tangible change ,this situation shows the lack of correctness of the exaggerated comments that indicated to the entry of the Turkish-Iranian relations to a new phase as a result of the two countries taking similar positions during the crisis in Qatar and the referendum in the Kurdistan of Iraq. The similarity between the concern and reactions of the Turkish- Iranian countries towards the danger was considered as a positive coherence in the interests of both countries, but in fact it was a negative consistency in the concern of both countries.
On the basis of the concept of consistency of concern, the Iranian-backed Shiite militias extended from Iran to the Mediterranean are preventing Turkey from moving in the Middle East and are limiting Turkey’s geopolitical flexibility in the region. This explains the reason for the increased tension of Turkish government through its relations with the geographical countries that exist between it and Iran, and in this context when Turkey reads comprehensively to Iran in the Middle East as a whole, we see a change in the situation clearly, because the nature of Turkish-Iranian relations is not enough to determine the reality also, but the aspirations of some Arab countries , along with Israel, has a significant influence in shaping this reality. If we want to go further on this point, we can say that the reason why Turkey does not join the ranks of some of the oppressive Arab countries and Israel in opposition to Iran is because it is not just about Iran, it is a matter of looking for anew regional system in the region. In this context, Iran is not the sole founder of the new regional order, but it is the political Islam and therefore Turkey also represent the founding factors of the new regime. Turkey realized during the July 15 coup, the coup of Egypt, the Jerusalem decision, the Qatar crisis and the Hariri crisis that the bodies opposed to Iran are looking for a new regional order that excludes Turkey and political Islam not only Iran , Turkey also believes that most of these agencies have targeted the Turkish state directly or indirectly, for this reason , Turkey may not stand in the face of this initiative directly, but maintain the dimension of existed distances .
Looking at the border areas or the geography close to the Turkish state, we also see a change in the situation. Turkey must realize that Iran is trying to establish a new regime of Iranian center in the Syria-Lebanon-Iraq line , as the establishment of Shiite militias and the collapse of countries in this region are at the top of the factors that are contributing to increase the power of Iran and in addition to that , Iran aims to reorganize the countries of the region not only to integrate them with these non-governmental factors , but also to organize them so that these countries can absorb these non-governmental factors within their cadres, and thus this situation leads to increased tension in Turkey during its relations with Iran due to the infrastructure that Iran is seeking for its establishment, but is unfamiliar to the traditions of Turkish politics, it refers to the continuing lack of strategic and geopolitical consistency between the two Turkish-Iranian countries near the Turkish geography areas.
It is clear that the Turkish-Iranian relations are characterized by competition and cooperation at the same time, sometimes cooperation is apparent and competition is implicit, and the other , the competition is apparent and the cooperation is implicit , and it is clear that the rule of common interests governing Turkish-Iranian relations began to progress again after retreating on the impact of the Syrian crisis , where each party is keen on some kind of balance in its regional and international policies to invest in the best form, and Turkish-Iranian relations will not be affected greatly by the Syrian crisis, given the size of interests and vital issues that link the two countries, and the absence of Arabs and Arab forces from the regional and even the international arena is the factor who allows for the emergence of other active forces in the region and at the expense of their interests.
Turkey categorically opposes any American plan to attack Iran in the light of escalating tension between Tehran and Washington and the US military mobilizing more troops, aircraft carriers and strategic bombers in the region amid real fear of a devastating confrontation between the two countries. Although Turkey differs fundamentally with Tehran on Many regional and international issues. Iran is Turkey’s biggest regional rival, but Ankara considers any military attack on Iran to be a devastating strategic threat to it? According to special information received by the Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies, Qasem Soleimani visited Ankara and met with Hakan Fidan, Director of Turkish Intelligence, to consult and assess the overall security and military developments in the region. The question is : What makes Turkey oppose the “potential war on Iran ” ?
One of the main reasons for Turkey’s rejection of any military attack on Iran is its fear that any American military strike will lead to the collapse of the central government in Iran and thus the spread of chaos and the collapse of security, which will affect Turkey directly, as happened in Syria, especially that Turkey has a border of 300 kilometers linking the to countries and Turkey is expecting a more difficult and worse scenario than it where it has been experiencing since the outbreak of the war in Syria eight years ago, because of the collapse of security on the other side of the border and thus the face of multiple threats from regional parties and terrorist organizations similar to what happened in Syria.
Turkey opposes any scenario that would push the region into military confrontations that can not be calculated in a way that could develop disproportionately to include other countries, including the Gulf states, which means entering the region in a state of alignment and taking stalemate positions by standing on one side at the expense of the other and possibly slipping to be turned into a direct party in this confrontation and the consequent political, military and economic implications. In the event of the collapse of the Iranian government, Turkey expects a strong return of terrorist organizations such as state organization ISIS and the emergence of radical Shiite militias that may also turn to attack Turkey. This will also encourage and help the return of terrorist organizations to Iraq and ensure the continuation and deepening of the current crisis in Syria. the Turkish analysts called it : ” scenario of the collapse of security and strong regimes in neighboring countries and ignite the Turkish neighborhood completely ” .
Turkey is well aware that the weakness or collapse of the Iranian regime will immediately mean the revival of the Kurdish armed organizations, headed by the PKK and its branches in Iraq, the return of force to its Iranian branch , the Kurdistan Free life Party and the facilitation of arms transfers to the Kurdish organizations from Syria to Iraq, and to Iran and then to Turkey , thus destroying all the achievements of the Turkish army in weakening the PKK organization inside Turkey and in Iran over the past years.
The most dangerous scenario in this context is that the collapse of the regime means the emergence of separatist tendencies in Iran similar to what happened in Iraq previously and Syria later, and therefore the Kurds in Iran will be active to demand and work to establish a separate entity for them, which encourages the Kurds of Turkey to work to establish their own state which Turkey considered it for decades its greatest strategic threat.
With regard to energy sources, Turkey fears that any dispute, even if limited, could affect Iran’s energy supplies. Ankara relies heavily on Iranian oil and gas at preferential prices and at lower transport costs. If it stops, it will be a very painful blow to Turkey which will not be able to provide an alternative easily to the large amounts of gas and oil it receives from Iran and this will cost it annual losses of up to billions of dollars.
Economically, Iran is an important economic partner of Turkey and the two countries seek to raise the volume of trade exchange from nearly 20 billion dollars to more than 30 billion dollars. In the event of any military confrontation means that the Turkish exhausted economy these months by successive crises will receive a painful blow that it will increase its troubles in an unprecedented manner due to the losses of up to tens of billions of dollars.
In the event of a deterioration of the situation and a major military confrontation occurs , Turkey expects a major wave of asylum from Iran to the Turkish territory, similar to what happened in the Syrian crisis, something that Turkey can no longer afford , whether socially, security or economically.
Although all the above-mentioned political, security and economic reasons are at the heart of the Turkish decision to reject any US military action against Iran, the biggest fear remains of a firm belief in decision-making circles in Ankara that the destruction of a regional and significant large state as Iran in the region, means that Turkey will be the next target and then Ankara will not be able to face a similar scenario after it has been exhausted by a huge amount of security and economic crises more difficult than those that have lived since the beginning of the war in Syria.
In short, Turkey and Iran are very pragmatic about their controversial issues, avoiding direct political, military, and diplomatic confrontation as much as possible. Recent political and field developments in Syria and Iraq significantly reduce the level of tension between them, which peaked in the last two years.
On the other hand, although the result of the supposed referendum in the territory of northern Iraq is not binding, and will not have direct repercussions on the independence of the region and the future of Iraq, but symbolically, and a paper supporting the position of the Kurdish negotiating, it (in addition to other factors, foremost of which is tension with Washington and the Gulf crisis ) is a common threat and priority for both sides, especially as it is accompanied by significant progress of the other Kurdish project in northern Syria with the support of Washington.
The project of separation or federalism / autonomy for the Kurds in Syria and Iraq will directly and indirectly affect the other two countries of the four countries, where Kurds are historically divided on them , ie Turkey and Iran; which makes the two parties attach great importance to cooperation and coordination between them to postpone the referendum at the minimum if they can not cancel it especially Ankara is capable of putting pressure on Barzani with the paper of economic relations and energy contracts.
On the other hand, the American behavior completely ignoring the interests of Turkey in Syria makes it see itself closer to Moscow and to a lesser extent to Tehran, including to Washington, especially in light of the cold relations with the European Union and NATO; the path of the solution in Syria seems to be negotiated and affected by by the cards of strength of each party of the crisis and the control of the field is one of the most important cards of required force , Turkey is therefore keen to extend its influence and reduce the area of control of the Kurdish organizations as much as possible; hence , from here the idea of the military operation in Afrin or Manbaj, or others comes .
The developments of the Kurdish file in Syria specifically , which was the main reason for the change in the Turkish approach to the Syrian crisis, are joining today with the referendum station in Iraq where Ankara and Tehran see it as a threat to their national security. They are forced to neutralize the dispute files as much as possible and unite efforts to confront the latter. Hence Baqari’s special visit came and its agenda and future expectations based on it, and Iran’s readiness to cooperate against Kurdistan is a retreat from Iran in its policy on the Kurdish issue; especially with Erdogan’s comments that there is a possibility of a joint operation between the two countries against terrorists.
The Turkish-Russian-Iranian consensus on the fate of Idlib and the supposed Turkish operation in Afrin will have a major impact on the consolidation of the agreement on the areas of reducing the escalation and its success. This will help to enhance the chances of a political process to resolve the Syrian crisis. As the three countries represent the parties supporting and sponsoring the two sides of the crisis and able to pressure them towards a solution.
However, this does not mean that both Turkey and Iran have completely overcome the contentious issues and the fierce competition between them over the influence in the region and in several files; it is the convergence of temporary interests, the confrontation of common urgent dangers and the prospect of possible strategic gains in the event of coordination or cooperation; Stable alliances and strategic shifts in positions are difficult and excluded; in light of the liquidity situation that dominates the landscape in the region, especially Syria and Iraq, which overshadows all parties interlocking with them .
Turkish Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies