Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Akbar Salehi met with [Turkish] officials in Turkey last week. The importance of continued high level meetings between these two powers is quite clear. Ankara has supported Tehran regarding the debates over its nuclear program, and consequenty has been subject to serious criticisms at the international and domestic levels. My personal opinion on [Turkey’s position vis-a-vis the Iranian nuclear program] remains unchanged. Turkey is simply trying to ward off danger. Moreover, it has always been the country stance when it comes to nuclear proliferation. It has expressed several times that the region should be free from nuclear arsenals, underlining Israel as much as Iran. On the other hand, Iran is Turkey's geographical neighbor. Thus it is only natural that Turkey’s support regarding nuclear energy should be seen as a manifestation of the foreign policy realities Turkey faces, and its consistency in formulating them.
The Competition Gets Tougher
[Despite past cordial relations], the fact that competition is on the rise between the two countries is indeed not a good sign. At this point, we have to be calm and formulate rational explanations as to who does what. Tehran’s influence over Syria is nothing new; it is largely a result of Syria's support for the Iranian Revolution. By mobilizing Shia sentiment, Iran has also increased its influence over Baghdad, not to mention that it maintains sway over events in Lebanon through Hezbollah. As a result, it would not be presumptuous to say that Tehran has maneuverability and control over a large area extending from Beirut to Damascus and down to Baghdad, and that it has been taking steps to deepen its clout in these countries. Turkey's recent interventions in the same area, and its desire to increase its own influence are precisely what is threatening relations between the two countries. Those who point out Iran's isolation in the international area also argue that Turkey is an agent in the system which seeks to confine Iranian reach.
[Unwarranted Global Perceptions] of Turkish Policy
For weeks, I have been trying to say: “Don't go that far!” How is it possible to claim that Turkey is merely a docile, easily controlled trigger of the international system? And how [are we supposed to believe] that Iran is actually completely isolated from the system, that it does not overtly or covertly pursue contacts with different powers? Didn't the US engage in negotiations with Iran over Iraq? Are we not aware that the same is happening over Afghanistan? This is not a question of right or wrong; I am simply telling you the facts. So why is it so easy to make Turkey a target [and call it a puppet of the west]? How can [all of Turkey’s actions] be called a part of an international plot, simply because of its past habits and the underestimation of [its] true power?
It needs to be stressed once again that Turkey is not as it once was. [It is no longer] the country which does what it is told. [To conceive Turkey] as a non-objecting participant of every international project is a thing of the past. Its educated manpower may still not be adequate given its aspirations, but it stands where it should. If there are new hotspots of conflict in our region, and if we want [independent Turkey policy] to continue, we should [analyze Turkey’s maneuvers more objectively].