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Did Turkey ‘Lose’ Iran?

Pinar Tremblay analyzes the deterioration in Turkish-Iranian relations over the past three years.
The Patriot system is pictured at a Turkish military base in Kahramanmaras January 31, 2013. A second pair of Patriot missile batteries being sent by NATO countries to defend Turkey against possible attack from Syria are now operational, a German security official said on Tuesday. The United States, Germany and the Netherlands each committed to sending two batteries and up to 400 soldiers to operate them after Ankara asked for help to bolster its air defences against possible missile attack from Syria. The

There are some memories we would rather not talk about. Turkish-Iranian relations of the last decade can be summarized as a series of missed opportunities. When it comes to Iran, many Turkish pundits are emotionally conflicted and surprisingly careful with their words. Several disappointments in communications with Iran have brought Turkish officials to this quiet skepticism. Indeed, behind the emotional rhetoric lay quite a few failures of communication and coordination between Iran and Turkey. After scrutinizing the partnership process, we can say that the Turkish side had to reset its foreign policy toward Iran as Syrian civil war spread by the end of 2011.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has built its relations with Iran on rather rational expectations. Turkey needed to diversify its energy suppliers, while Iran needed to break its isolation from the West. Turkey and Iran cooperated smoothly against narco-trafficking and terrorism. In those years, the AKP government felt particularly comfortable with Iran’s clerical establishment. Neo-Ottomans seemed determined to establish a system where two sovereign Muslim states not only resided peacefully side by side but cooperated effectively. The old Ottoman-Safavid competition for supremacy was to be over soon under the shining promise of the “zero problems” with neighbors policy. It was never literally “zero problems” with Iran, but we can confidently say that the cost of being neighbors decreased as mutual benefits increased. When talking about Iran, Turkish rhetoric lacked "in the days of our ancestors' stories" Tehran not being a former Ottoman land. Plus, the harsh international surveillance on Iran made Turks cautious in their interactions.

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