In the aftermath of the latest diplomatic row between Turkey and Israel, Ankara’s Deputy Chairman of External Affairs Suat Kiniklioglu penned an op-ed in Friday’s New York Times that asks for the United States, Europe, and Israel to acknowledge Turkey’s role as an ascending regional power and begin to treat it as such.
I remember vividly the days when the United States criticized Turkey for engaging with Syria at a time when Washington and the Europeans were trying to isolate Syria. Today we see a full reversal of U.S. and European policies. Both now recognize that engaging with Syria is the right course of action.
Then, Turkey’s views on the Middle East were shunned and disregarded. The Americans began to revise their position in 2007 and recognized that Turkey is a regional power and no longer the satellite state of the Cold War years. They understood that Turkey needed to be treated accordingly. It took a bit of time and effort to facilitate that mental shift, but President Barack Obama’s early visit to Turkey was a confirmation of that perception.
The Europeans still have a hard time making the mental shift concerning Turkey, which is why our relations remain fragile. Israel appears to be in the same position. It also does not seem to have fully accepted that Turkey has changed and that Turkey’s reentry into the Middle East is permanent.
And here is the snippet most relevant to the “Race for Iran”:
Our regional policy seeks to reintegrate Turkey into its immediate neighborhood, including the Middle East. Turkey is a member of the G-20, a current member of the U.N. Security Council, negotiating with the European Union and increasingly influential in various regions.
Turkey will continue to advocate a new inclusive order in the region and will seek diplomatic means to further this agenda.
Thought Kiniklioglu doesn’t articulate it directly in this piece, part of Turkey’s regional strategy is to develop cooperative diplomatic and economic relations with Iran as a way to promote regional prosperity and stability. For Turkey, the strategic logic of cooperating with its energy-rich neighbor is indisputable and lays bare the futility of trying to “isolate” Iran.
As Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett explained on this blog last week, the trend lines in the energy sector indicate that Iran’s neighbors will be compelled to further integrate Iran into the regional energy equation.
– Ben Katcher