Turkey’s top military council said on Thursday it reviewed Turkish army’s preparedness for war
with Syria and Iran following its day-long meeting, where Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan were also present.
At a time when tensions are running high with neighbors like Iran and Syria, it is clear that Ankara’s message that Turkey is ready to defend its nation is designed to send chills through Tehran and its chief ally Syria. This seems to be simple math that realists would not be surprised to see: someone threatens you and you fire back.
But sadly it is not. It clearly indicates that Turkey’s foreign policy establishment has a long way to go to better analyze situation in the ground.
As I noted in my previous note, Iran’s threats against Turkey have become weekly. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu twice conveyed his concern to his Iranian counterpart and demanded an explanation this week. Salehi replied that these remarks are not Iran’s official position.
If a country is hell-bent on building arms and strengthening itself to the extent of acquiring nuclear weapons, foreign threats are a good way to justify what the country is doing now. Iran has frustrated population, living under ideologically corrupt regime. Iranian leadership makes sure that it fabricates a foreign enemy, demonizes it and mobilizes its efforts to defend itself from the enemy. It has almost become clear that Iran is pursuing a hegemonic foreign policy rather than acting defiant. American/Israeli threats against Iran are feeding the regime’s never-ending preparation for war. In these circumstances, Iran got what it wanted: NATO accomplice Turkey, with its secular, Western, anti-Islamic political institutions, is a threat to Iran and can't be a role model for post-revolution Arab states. At least this is what Iran's supreme leader Khamenei's adviser Ali Akbar Velayeti said this week.
Another important distinction decision-makers must make while dealing with Iran is a fact that there are increasingly growing cracks in Iran’s ruling establishment and this is the reason why there are different voices coming out all at the same time. Unpredictable country means unhealthy calculation in international relations and Turkey is right to push Iran to make up its own mind in its behavior toward Turkey.
Turkey is a rapidly rising power in a hostile and complex neighborhood – a territory where political calculations must be made twice because of fragile balance of power. A rising and emerging power – particularly if it has imperial past – always sets off balancing act in adjacent countries where they forge alliances or increase defensive arms buildup against the emerging power. Davutoğlu’s zero problems foreign policy diplomacy has a virtue in this sense: it sends signals to neighboring countries that although Turkey is rising, its ascent is peaceful and even beneficial for prosperity in the region.
Sending vague and subtle threat messages as a response to vague statements of an isolated country should not be helpful, carrying with itself a danger of alienating friendly neighboring countries. Turkey must make sure that it does not become another Israel in the region, whose responses against Iran vindicates the Islamic republic's actions both at home and abroad.