2.12.07

Turkey and Iran: Further Reading

The following article by John C.K. Daly in United Press International offers readers a nice overview of Turkey's latest string of energy dealings with Iran. Daly's article also considers the American view of these growing energy ties. He reviews the frequently referenced array of diplomatic exchanges, which have communicated Washington's aggravation with Turkey's creation of a small, yet symbolic, hole through the wall of international sanctions against Turkey's southeastern neighbor.

The second half of Daly's article documents the highly over-emphasized saga of estrangement between Turkey and the U.S. To his credit, Daly makes the very astute observation that Turkey has crossed Washington due to its practical energy needs. He also makes the rather novel argument (for a Western journalist) that it is Washington's responsibility to propose workable solutions, which do not involve Iran, if Washington is truly dismayed by energy cooperation between Turkey and Iran.
It is time for the Bush administration to realize, however belatedly, that its inattention to Turkish domestic and foreign policy concerns has produced the growing estrangement between the two nations and that Washington has nothing to offer Ankara in the energy sphere except criticism. The Erdogan government, as a necessity, has accordingly moved national energy concerns ahead of placating U.S. foreign-policy initiatives.
It is the opinion of this observer that the Erdo─čan government was absolutely correct to prioritize Turkey's energy concerns over U.S. foreign-policy initiatives. Moreover, there is little evidence that closer ties with Iran are an example of the AK Party's religious agenda other than its interest and success in doing business with religiously conservative countries like Iran, as well as Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia.

While Daly should be lauded for his analysis of Turkey's rationale, he places too much importance on the cool distance that currently marks the relationship between Washington and Ankara. As George Bush and Nicolas Sarkozy have demonstrated, relations between two countries with historic ties can be repaired overnight if there exists the common interest to do so.

Pursuing energy trade with one's neighbors is a very healthy practice. In fact, growing regional energy integration breeds an atmosphere of greater normalcy through interdependence. While it is true that Iran is an exceptional case, selling electricity and other forms of energy to Turkey is absolutely the type of activity that the international community should condone. It is constructive compared to Iran's typical machinations. Perhaps this is why neither Washington nor the European community have accorded much punch to their criticisms of Turkish-Iranian energy ties.

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