Mounting tensions between Turkey and Iran

BY: Dr. Sudhanshu Tripathi
December 21, 2012

In an already tense and volatile scenario of West Asia, a major controversy that has erupted early this week between Turkey and Iran is due to a recent decision by the Government of Turkey which is in connection with seeking Patriot missiles from NATO powers for deploying along the borders of Syria. Indeed, it has led to aggravate a serious disruption in their prevailing mutual ties which were quite close so far as Iran has been a reliable partner of Turkey. This was evident from the cancellation of President Ahmadinejad's scheduled visit on the previous Monday to Konya city where he was to participate, on the invitation of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogen, in the death anniversary of the 13th century Sufi mystic Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi.

Just before this event, Iran's armed force chief, General Hassan Firouzabadi had harshly criticised the role of Turkey in connection with the missile deployment. "Each one of these Patriots is a black mark on the world map, and is meant to cause a world war. They are marking plans for a world war, and this is very dangerous for the future of humanity and for the future of Europe itself," warned the General Firouzabadi whose remarks seemed to conjure images of the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis which had emerged due to deployment of the missiles into Cuba by the then USSR in the same year, leading to its likely showdown with the USA.

According to some analysts, Iran is worried because, once, the Patriot anti-missile and anti-aircraft batteries are so installed, Turkey- free from threat of Syrian air strikes- would be emboldened to escalate support for the armed Syrian opposition. This would, in turn, pose a graver threat to the survivability of the pro-Iranian government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. It was, therefore, unsurprising that Ali Akbar Salehi, Iranian Foreign Minister, followed up warning with an unambiguous statement in support of Mr. Assad; that Iran would do everything in its power to thwart foreign efforts aimed for ensuring "regime change in Syria". In fact, Iran considers Syria as a lynchpin of the "axis of resistance" against Israel which also includes the Lebanese Hizbollah and the Palestinian Hamas.

Further, the sections of the Russian intelligentsia are of the view that the deployment of Patriot missiles are a greater threat to Iran rather than to Syria. Russia's Kommarsant daily quoted a Russian diplomatic source as saying: "Turkey has explained its request to NATO as exclusively related to its need to defend itself from a possible attack from the Syrian army. But there could be a second motivation for this action, which is a preparation for military strike against Iran." As it is, that the six Patriot batteries being drawn from NATO members Germany, Netherlands and the US will lead to the accompanying deployment at Syria's doorstep of around 400 German troops, 360 Dutch soldiers and another 400 US servicemen thereby enhancing its war capability to a significant level. In fact, the militarisation of the border, and the threat it poses to Syria and Iran appears to be generating a momentum for closer ties between Moscow and Teheran. While talking with NATO's Secretary-General Anders Fog Rasmussen, the Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergei Lavarov had warned that any "provocation may trigger a very serious conflict"

Against this backdrop, Turkey's Patriot missile deployment programme will, obviously, escalate tensions between the two prominent neighbours with likely scenario of close relations between Iran and Russia, thereby putting strains on the hitherto prevailing balance of power among member countries in the region of West Asia. This will, obviously, motivate the US to vigorously pursue its national interests by forging closer ties with all of them in the region as the stakes are very high for it as they are for Russia and many other Western powers.

Dr. Sudhanshu Tripathi
Associate Professor, Political Science,
M. D. P. G. College, PRATAPGARH (UP),
Narsinghbhanpur, Naya Mal Godam Road,
Distt- PRATAPGARH (UP), Pin-230001,

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