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Israeli think tank: Iran-Turkey ties are cause for concern

September 27, 2017 at 3:16 am

President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) shakes hands with President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani (R) before their meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan on 1 March 2017 [Kayhan Özer/ Anadolu Agency]

The Israeli National Security Studies Institute has warned that a range of recent regional developments involving Turkey do not serve Israeli interests. In a recent paper, the institute highlighted regional issues including the recent high level of rapprochement between Turkey and Iran, Ankara’s support for Qatar in its crisis with the Gulf states, Turkey’s fragile relations with Egypt and the way Ankara sided against Israel during the recent Al-Aqsa Mosque crisis as causes for concern.

The research noted that among the salient examples of this rapprochement is the historical visit of Iranian Chief of the General Staff , Major General Mohammad Bagheri, to Ankara in August, was the first visit since the Iranian revolution of 1979. Moreover the recent meeting of Presidents Rouhani and Erdoğan, during the Astana Peace Talks on 9 September, and the multilateral agreement that the two countries reached with Russia on de-escalation areas in Idlib Governorate and the scheduled visit of Erdoğan to Iran in October, are all signs of closer ties between Turkey and Iran.

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Additionally, in the field of economics, Turkey, Iran and Russia have signed a tripartite deal on gas and oil prospecting in Iran, which particularly significant for Turkey as it has no important energy resources in its territory.

The study that was prepared by two researchers at the Institute, Sima Shayne, an expert in the Iranian affairs, and Dr. Galia Lindishtraws an expert in Turkish affairs, noted that:

The most important factors behind this rapprochement is Russia and Iran’s success in strengthening Al-Assad’s regime and supporting the Syrian Kurds, which led the Turks to admit that they have nothing to do but to cooperate with the victorious Iranian-Russian coalition in order to try to reduce the losses that Turkey faced at the end of the Syrian war.

On the Iranian-Russian side, the two countries seem to need to cooperate with Turkey because of its potential to cause them harm, as demonstrated by its support for the armed opposition in the Syrian war.

Turkey is now focusing its attention on the Kurdish situation, specifically on ensuring that no independent Kurdish entity in northern Syria would be formed, in light of the close military cooperation between them and the United States in the war against Daesh.

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In the context of the Kurdish referendum on independence, there is a significant overlap of interests between Turkey and Iran who both oppose it. Iran has threatened to take strong action to resist an Iraqi split. Turkey it appears to be reluctant to take decisive action because of the strong relations between Ankara and Erbil.

Concerning the expansion of the Iranian-Turkish common interests, the study points to the Qatari crisis. Turkey and Iran have found themselves on the same side as Qatar and helped it to cope with the repercussions of the embargo that was imposed on it. Turkey considers that its alliance with Qatar is one of its few stable relations these last few years. Ankara’s decision to establish a military base in Qatar and the quick implementation of the resolution is clear evidence of the strong relationship between the two countries.

According to the study, the Turkish-Iranian rapprochement coincides also with a parallel rapprochement between Turkey and Russia. These relations were reinforced by President Erdoğan’s declaration that Turkey had paid Russia to purchase the S-400 missile system, a deal that have caused the relations between Turkey and the United States to shrink, in addition to the issue that is still not resolved concerning Ankara’s support for Tehran to overcome US sanctions.

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With regard to Israel, the study considered that the developing relations between Turkey and Iran exacerbate the conflicts between Ankara and Tel Aviv, in addition to the deep and continuing differences that affect their relations, especially in relation to Palestine and most notably the relations between Ankara and Hamas, and Turkey’s hostile statements against Israel during the events of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The research concluded by saying that Turkey and Israel are disagreeing in most issues that are on the Israeli security agenda. It is true that Turkey has had to change its policy because of the changes that took place on the ground, but these changes do not reflect a profound congruence of interests with Iran. Yet, there is no congruence of interests between Turkey and Israel as well.