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Elliot Hen-Tov, a scholar of Turkish-Iranian relations [some poor bugger has to be I guess], thinks he knows why.

“Iran is not completely comfortable with Turkey,” said Elliot Hen-Tov. “It never will be.”

Hen-Tov says Iranian leaders are perplexed – even envious – that a country that was half as rich as Iran was years 30 ago, when the Islamic Revolution took place, is today twice as wealthy as the Islamic Republic.

Do I have to draw a diagram?

“To see a neighbor that really was a backwater, an underdeveloped authoritarian country now emerge as a model, as a leader, must be very frustrating,” he said. “And that impacts political relations at some point. Accepting Turkish leadership is just one step too far.”

In recent years, the political dynamic between Ankara and Tehran has been turned completely on its head.
Today, Turkey is a major political and economic force in the Middle East. It’s the 16th largest economy in the world and Iran looks to Ankara for economic benefits and cooperation.

Because they are broke and nobody likes them? I’d love to go to Iran. They’ve got loads of old stuff worth looking at and all that. But I’m not dropping my quids in a state where the religious police arrest store mannequins for inappropriate hijab. Because they are clearly mentalists.

Turkey has arbitrated an Israel-Syrian conflict; played a role in the political reconciliation of Lebanon; and is trying to bring together leaders of Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Well… Turkey is a firm Israeli Ally. Israel might have stuck a few noses out of joint in the Mid-East but that is nothing to what the Ottoman’s achieved over several hundred years. And it would appear that Ataturk’s legacy state is doing it again.

But by pursuing its current foreign policy strategy, Turkey is also taking on Iran’s mostly self-ascribed role as defender of the Muslim underdog.

Just last week, Ankara announced it is determined to develop an industrial zone in Palestinian territories despite opposition from Israel.

Last month’s Israeli attack on a Turkish-led aid flotilla to Gaza only helped crystallize Turkey’s role as the newest advocate for the Palestinians

“That role as the alleged defender of the “Mosta’Zaffin” – or the Oppressed – in the region and beyond, that is a role that Iran only partially fulfilled in the past,” said Hen-Tov. ‘It may have seen itself as the leader in its own Revolutionary discourse but it was basically the next best thing on the market….You now have a better alternative on the market. ”

Analysts say the Arab street hopes the more liberal Islam of Sunni Turkey can lead to solutions for persistent regional conflicts.

The shift means Middle Eastern players are relying less on the Islamic Republic for political backing.
Last month, Hamas refused Iran’s offer to provide an escort for their aid ship to Gaza following the flotilla attack, saying the Iranian assistance might only complicate the situation.

Right so Hamas, Hamas don’t even like Iran any more! Wow! I predict an Israeli air strike on the Iranian nuclear program and a lot of Arab air-defence controllers on gardening leave.

“Supporters of Iran or affiliates such as Hezbollah or Hamas, they quickly have picked up on the signal that Iranian influence is perhaps not as valuable as Turkish influence,” he said.

Surveys from a well-regarded polling organization in the U.S. also show that nearly half of Palestinians and 60 per cent of Lebanese have an unfavorable view of Iran.

Similar surveys show that the public in countries with large Muslim populations – including Turkey – lack the confidence Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can do the right thing regarding world affairs.

Gor Blimey! They really are Billy No Mates. Probably because the only thing between Iran and Israel is most of the Middle-East and the average Joe in that neck of the woods is pissed off with sabres being rattled over his head. Note also the average Joe round there is not a Sh’ite but a Sunni and not a Persian but an Arab.

Iran may have mixed feelings about Turkey’s rise but Ankara is firm in its resolve to prevent the likelihood of military action over its neighbor’s nuclear program.

That I don’t believe. Well I do but it’s all about trade isn’t it?

“It will be Turkey that will be hit hardest by the sanctions or use of force,” said Namik Tan. “If we are asked to bear the burden, we should also be given the chance to engage effective dialogue with Iran. We are right next to Iran, ladies and gentlemen, not 10,000 kilometers away, like yourselves living in this wonderful country.”

Yup, it’s trade and not principle. Would Turkey welcome a new regime in Tehran? I think so. But as it is Iran is Turkey’s number two gas supplier after Russia (being the Turkish energy minister must be a true hilarity).

Despite the envy Iranian leaders may feel towards Turkey’s growing regional influence, Tehran continues to view Turkey as an overall positive force.

Iran, after all, is Turkey’s second largest natural gas producer after Russia. And Turkey acts as a buffer on Iran’s border from the encroachment of Western NATO powers and to some extent Israel.

Hold on. Turkey is a NATO member of long standing. It was the Turks and the Greeks we relied on to hold the southern flank if the Russians kicked-off. I mean there was also Italy but yeah, right, whatever.

Overall – and I doubt the truth of this because of that final howler – Turkey eclipsing Iran is a good thing. The Turkish sort of CofE version of Islam is not the deranged lunacy that issues from Qom or Tehran. It’s more, “D’ya wanna buy a carpet?” than “Death to the Zionist-Crusaders!” (neatly ignoring the fact that at the time of the Crusades Jews were not exactly popular in Europe either). My mother was hounded in Istanbul in 1973 by Turkish tradesmen offering deals on rugs and spectacularly strong and sweet coffee. That can be annoying but it is not a jihad. Just a fella trying to make a living.

If a nation founded by a man who had this to say about the religion, “Islam is an absurd theology of an immoral Bedouin” can achieve ascendency in the Islamosphere then we are sitting pretty. He also likened Islam to being chained to a rotting corpse.

He was a class act was Ataturk.


  1. John B says:

    Turkey is rapidly sliding into a radical Islamist orientation. The military has all but been side stepped and the country is becoming radicalised. I’m afraid we have another Iran in the making, as you correctly point out, within NATO.

  2. Paul Marks says:

    John B. – sadly yes.

    The good age (not golden – but O.K.) age in Turkey is drawing to a close (although David Cameron does not understand that).

    Turkish Cyprus is still in secular hands – but for how long?

    Still I doubt Turkey and Iran will become long term friends – they faught each other for centuries.

    Turkey is Sunni and Iran is Shia.

    True both Sunni and Shia hate Christians and Jews, but they also hate each other.

    “What about athiests Paul” – actually you present a problem for them, they really would like to kill you more than once (to show that they hate you more than Christians and Jews) but to kill someone more than once is difficult.

  3. RAB says:

    I’ve been to Turkey and Northern Cyprus a lot over the years. I like the country and I like the people.

    I have friends there, and they appear to be much like myself in that I was brought up nominally Christian and they Muslim but neither take it very seriously. We drink smoke and have a laugh and try to enjoy life.

    But alas these are the westernised Turks that I come into contact with in large towns and tourist resorts. Once you step outside those enclaves it is a different story, Islam holds sway.

    Attaturk was a great man, but his secularisation has been running for over a hundred years now, and its uptake is not even 50%.

    Like John and Paul (George and Ringo will be along in a minute) I fear Turkey could go in exactly the same direction, and as quickly, as Iran did with the fall of the Shah.

    To use the Nazi analogy, most Germans wern’t Nazis, didn’t really know about the Death camps until the end of the war, but they still supported the War for simple straightforward Nationalistic and and Patriotic reasons. The same will apply to Turks.

    They are Muslim and very patriotic, and when push comes to shove and it comes down to taking sides (whether they are conned cajoled or coersed into doing so) they will not be choosing ours, however friendly and worthy they may appear on the surface.

    So for this reason, much as I have said I love them and their country, the last thing we should do is to let them into the EU. And of course we should leave, but that is a different matter.

    The last thing we need is 72 million young people heading our way with no legal way to stop or restrict them, which is what EU rules forbid us to do to fellow members of the Great Fuckedtocracy of the United States of Europe.

    Yes they may look harmless and friendly right now, but so did our home grown Jihadis. Who knew that our second generation immigrants would be five times as fanatical as their parents? Certainly not political fuckwits like Cameron who is at this moment playing political games in Turkey with a bag full of carrots and kind words for them, aimed mainly at scoring points over France and Germany in the EU arena, without any idea what the real consequences might be down the line.

  4. Peter MacFarlane says:

    What RAB said.

    I too have spent some time in Turkey – in the non-touristy North on the shores of the Black Sea.

    Ataturk was indeed a great man, and the legal secularisation of Turkey still stands – just. But his legacy is in serious danger, and those rural areas are very different from Istanbul or Ankara; they look like a different world to the westernised holiday resorts of the Mediterranean coast. Every village – every village, however tiny, has a brand new shiny mosque – paid for, we were told, with Saudi money – and the sights and sounds of Islam are everywhere.

    We definitely do not want all these people given free rein to come to Britain and France; the ones already here cause quite enough trouble, thank you.

    In any case, look at the map – Turkey is not part of Europe.

    But then – erm – if you look at the map, neither is Britain…

  5. NickM says:

    We are Europe.

    And they can take it or fucking leave it.

    I am European – it is my continent and I am here to kill your monster!

    Whether you fucking like it or not.

    I’m a Viking and we did some dreadful things – mainly to monks with plate.

    Mainly with axes.

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