Connect with us

OPINION

Areas of cooperation in Turkish-Chinese relations: Is it better late than never?

Published

on

The fact that global production and the resulting shift in values towards Asia has led all countries in the world to revise their policies towards the region, especially towards China. While the US under former President Barack Obama was defined as an ‘Indo-Pacific’ country, the attitude towards China in national security documents has gradually shifted from cooperation to competition. In line with a policy that the US interpreted as an attempt to mitigate risk and China as an attempt to ‘encircle’, the Washington administration preferred to build alliances with regional actors while raising tariff walls and accelerating the technology war. As a result of this preference, platforms such as AUKUS and QUAD were witnessed, while discussions on NATO’s expansion towards Asia or Asia’s NATO gained momentum.

Europe’s response to the rise of China, which has traditionally been part of the security architecture built by the US, has oscillated between competition and cooperation. While powers such as France, which defends European autonomy, and Hungary, which is on the periphery, have adopted a more cautious approach, Berlin is pointing to competition, provided that economic interests are protected.

The approach of the countries of the Global South to the rise of China has so far been in the opposite direction to that of the US and its allies. Countries that were founded as a result of the struggle against colonialism, that do not want to imitate the development prescriptions of Western countries, that come from different historical backgrounds and have different forms of governance, have seen China as a window of opportunity. China, which is seeking more friends in different parts of the world in the face of US policies of repression, would not only make more generous offers to these countries, but would also give them room to manoeuvre against Washington.

A new phase in China and Turkish-Islamic relations

It can be said that the Middle East and Central Asia are among the regions that are adapting to this reality, which has been described as a multipolar world. In the Middle East, the Sino-Arab Summit, the first of which was held with the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Saudi Arabia in 2022, and the Sino-Arab Foreign Ministers’ Forum, the tenth of which was held this year, are seen as symbols of politically institutionalised cooperation, while the expansion of BRICS with the countries of the region sums up the dimensions of the growing economic bond. It is also noteworthy that China has been given the role of “quarterback” in regional conflicts, in line with its growing political prestige and economic weight. Having hosted the establishment of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran in 2023, China’s weight is also felt in the Palestinian issue. While the foreign ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation preferred China as the first address on their Palestine tour, Hamas and Fatah sat down in Beijing for unity negotiations. It is known that the Palestinian factions, which made goodwill statements at the first meeting, decided to continue their meetings in China.

Central Asia retains its special position among the regions where relations with China are deepening. China, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (C-C5), which have been meeting at foreign minister level since 2020, met in Xi’an, the starting point of the historic Silk Road, to raise their cooperation to the level of heads of state in 2023. Economics was not the only topic on the agenda at the summit, which heralded investment in the Central Corridor, which runs from China to Europe and includes Turkey. Announcing a $3.8 billion grant to the countries of the region, the Chinese side also stressed that they were a “community of shared destiny” with Central Asia, while the five countries underlined their support for Beijing’s foreign policy narrative.

Is Turkey too late?

Although Ankara has acknowledged China’s growing global influence, especially in regions that are among Turkey’s main areas of interest, the policy development process has been relatively slow. In 2019, Turkey launched a process called the ‘Re-Asia Initiative’ in the region, where China plays a central role, and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan explained the need for this policy by saying that ‘the pendulum of history has shifted to Asia’. Moreover, President Erdoğan, like other countries of the Global South, expressed the fact that the international system does not give them enough representation with the words ‘The world is bigger than five’ and did not hesitate to say that multinational platforms are insufficient to solve acute global problems.

Despite the accuracy of Turkey’s observations, which have become globally recognised, it has become clear in the meantime that the steps taken by Ankara do not correspond to an improvement in the institutional order. Turkey’s engagement with the Western world, as opposed to the Middle East and Central Asian countries, as well as its lowered economic expectations and disputes over the Uighur issue, have played a role in such a picture. Former Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu expressed this difference at the end of 2022, stating that the Turkish delegation did not want to go to the Uyghur Autonomous Region, as China had planned. In addition, the fact that most of the Turkish media’s coverage of China consisted of Western-based translations and that Turkey was not sufficiently recognised in China and China in Turkey were among the factors affecting the policy-making process.

Can Minister Fidan forge a new equation?

Like other developing countries around the world, particularly in the Middle East and Central Asia, Turkey still has time to adjust its relations with China to the new realities. In this context, Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan’s visit to China on 3-5 June can be seen as a valuable start in announcing Ankara’s position on issues of interest to China.

In his statement here, Minister Fidan said that Ankara and Beijing overlap on many aspects of international relations, including contentious areas such as Palestine and Ukraine; that Turkey supports China’s constructive relations with Asian and Middle Eastern countries; and that Turkey appreciates China’s role as a mediator, such as in the Saudi and Iranian peace processes.

Perhaps more importantly for China, Minister Fidan said of the arm-wrestling between Washington and Beijing: ‘The fact that the markets established by the dominant powers in the last century are changing hands again under fairer, more competitive market conditions is an outcome that must be accepted. Minister Fidan’s assessments that there is a global transfer of power and that it should be peaceful, as well as his reiteration of respect for China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, were seen as positive factors.

What are the areas of cooperation?

While Minister Fidan’s presentation of Turkey’s position sets the framework for relations in the new era, the main external developments that require cooperation between Ankara and Beijing are the Palestinian and Ukrainian crises, and the risks and opportunities that arise on trade routes.

On the Palestinian issue, Turkey and China, which advocate a ceasefire in the short term and the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital based on the 1967 borders in the long term, could play an active role in uniting the Palestinian factions to mature this solution. It is not known whether Turkey and China are coordinated, but it is obvious that they are taking parallel steps in this direction. Indeed, the Hamas delegation that travelled to Beijing for merger negotiations with Fatah had issued a statement to the international press from Istanbul the day before, saying that they wanted to unite under one roof.

Ukraine is also on the list of crises where Turkey and China can play an equation-changing role. Ankara and Beijing, which can simultaneously maintain diplomatic relations with Russia and Ukraine, have converging views on opposing the sanctions policy, representing Russia in peace negotiations and respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries. China, which has been conducting shuttle diplomacy between Moscow, Kiev and European capitals with a 12-point road map, and Turkey, which previously brought the two countries to the brink of peace in Istanbul, could play a mediating role if the warring parties, especially Ukraine, show the will to do so.

The wind blowing in Turkey’s favour on global trade routes also stands out among the dimensions of cooperation in the new period. Indeed, after the Ukraine crisis, the Northern Corridor from China to Europe via Russia lost its popularity, while the Southern Corridor, which includes Iran, became more fragile as a result of geopolitical tensions. On the other hand, the Central Corridor, centred on Turkey, has become more attractive as the Central Asian countries have largely completed infrastructure works and simplified customs procedures. The Caspian Central Corridor, which cuts the distance between China and Europe by 2,000 kilometres compared to the Northern Corridor, will remain on Turkey’s agenda in the new period. In addition, Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan underlined Turkey’s comparative advantage by expressing the expectation that the Belt and Road Initiative will be harmonised with the Development Road. By stating that the Belt and Road will also provide opportunities for China, Ankara has made clear its position that China should become a partner in global trade rather than an outsider as desired by the West.

The address for cooperation: BRICS, committees, international summit and leaders’ meeting

Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan’s speech during his visit to China, while not as clear as Ankara’s position on hot topics and the listed areas of cooperation, also provides clues as to the platforms that can be used.

Minister Fidan’s statement that he will attend the BRICS meeting in Russia can be seen as a turning point in the institutionalisation of economic relations. BRICS, which came to the fore with President Erdoğan’s statements in 2018, represents 31 per cent of the global economy with the latest participation and includes 6 of the 10 largest oil producers in the world. The fact that BRICS, which is gaining weight every day against the G7, the so-called club of the rich, can respond to some of Turkey’s urgent needs with instruments such as the New Development Bank is one of the facts that Treasury and Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek cannot ignore. In fact, in a statement he made in 2017, Minister Mehmet Şimşek said, “In order to benefit from the projects they are going to give, you have to be a member. For this reason alone, we are seriously considering becoming a member’.

The ‘intergovernmental working committee’ announced by Minister Fidan during his visit to China is the second notable step in the context of institutionalisation between Ankara and Beijing. The appointment of Mehmet Şimşek, Turkey’s Minister of Treasury and Finance, to head this committee will help achieve results in many areas, such as correcting imbalances in the huge volume of trade, increasing investment in nuclear energy and new technologies, and further activating the Middle Corridor.

While the first meeting of the intergovernmental working committee is expected to be held in the coming months, Chinese President Xi Jinping is likely to visit Turkey. Announcing Turkey’s invitation, Foreign Minister Fidan said: “We would like to host Chinese President Xi Jinping in Turkey this year. I have once again conveyed our president’s invitation to our Chinese colleague. Xi’s invitation to visit Turkey may serve to open a new page in terms of regional order as well as bilateral relations.

On the other hand, the Uighur issue may complicate the parties’ engagement, which has been delayed compared to the Middle East and Central Asia. Minister Fidan’s visit added the definition of the cities of Urumqi and Kashgar to the disagreement over terms such as ‘crime, criminal, freedom and separatism’ that has been a problem between Turkey and China for some time. While Minister Fidan defined these two cities as Turkish and Islamic cities during his contacts, this thesis is not accepted by China. According to the White Book published by the Beijing administration, the region is presented as a continuation of ancient Chinese culture, while it is argued that the Uyghurs have separated from the Turks over time.

Although there has been no official or unofficial (through the media) reaction to Minister Fidan’s preference for a different definition from China’s, it would not be surprising if it caused some discomfort.

OPINION

What does a new Trump era mean for Iran?

Published

on

The very poor performance of Biden, the sick man of the White House, in the electoral debates, the uncertainties on the Democratic front and the assassination of Trump have led the world to prepare for the return of Trump to the White House as the US presidential elections approach. Instead of assessing the prospects of the two candidates, political analysts around the world are now analysing possible scenarios in various dossiers on the future of international relations in the event of a Trump return. This situation shows the seriousness of the issue of Trump’s return.

Of course, this issue has also attracted the attention of Iran and its new president, Masoud Pezeshkian, and the possible effects of Trump’s return on the political future of the Pezeshkian government, Iran’s national security, the course of the country’s economy and regional security are now being discussed in Tehran.

The importance of these discussions for the current government in Tehran was evident in the election debates. Trump’s name was frequently mentioned by various parties, and indeed his actions, the reactions to them and the possibility of his return to power was one of the issues that attracted the attention of the candidates and their supporters in the Iranian presidential election a few weeks ago.

Before discussing Trump’s impact on Iran and the Pezeshkian government, it is worth mentioning the history of Tehran and Trump’s opposition to each other and their place in the collective memory. In Iranian public opinion, Trump represents the revival of memories of maximum pressure and full-scale economic warfare aimed at harming the Iranian people and pressuring the Iranian government. (This is also reflected in Iranian cinema. For example, the film Leila’s Brothers reflects the impact of Trump’s policy of economic repression on the lives of ordinary Iranian people).

During his first presidential term (2017-2021), Trump labelled the Islamic Republic of Iran as a ‘rogue regime’, despite stating that he did not want regime change.RAN has repeatedly criticised the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was negotiated and concluded in 2015 between the US and five other world powers, and finally announced the US withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018. The US action came as an incredible shock and blow to the government of Hassan Rouhani, which had based its entire economic and political strategy on the resolution of the nuclear issue and the lifting of related sanctions. After withdrawing from the nuclear deal, the Trump administration implemented a policy of ‘maximum pressure’ through economic sanctions against Iran. Trump had previously imposed a number of new sanctions on Iran by signing the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act in August 2017, but the policy of maximum pressure imposed an unprecedented number of economic sanctions on the Iranian government and people, numbering in the thousands.

In addition to economic pressure, the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad International Airport in January 2020 on Trump’s orders is another tragic event that the Iranian people remember about Trump. This terrorist act was carried out by the official government of the United States against an official security and military official of the Islamic Republic of Iran who was on an official visit to a third country, and beyond its legal aspects, it created the highest level of tension between the United States and Iran. In response to this American terrorist act, Iran launched a missile attack on the Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq, a significant action in the history of international relations since the Second World War.

Hopefully, these events have created a very negative perception of Trump in Iranian public opinion and illustrate the ‘Trump phobia’ that exists in Iranian politics. he anti-Iranian statements of Trump and his deputy, J. D. Vance, in recent weeks have attracted renewed attention in the Iranian media. The main question in Tehran, and perhaps in all countries in the Middle East that could be affected by the mutual policies of Trump and Iran, is what are the possible scenarios for future relations between Iran and Trump?

First of all, despite the dark and unpleasant aspects of the past relations between Iran and Trump, developments such as the change of government in Iran, the changing geopolitical situation in the Middle East, the changing security order in Europe, the changing economic and security behaviour of China in the world and, most importantly, the internal situation in the United States, make it difficult to make a definitive judgement based on the past.

Optimistic scenario: a crisis freeze

If we prefer to take an optimistic view of future relations between Trump and Tehran, we can point to the following: the presence of a reformist president who is open to the West is an important factor that can positively influence developments. In this context, it is noteworthy that one of Pezeshkian’s first actions was to publish an article in English in which he declared his readiness to establish relations with all countries of the world on the basis of mutual respect. Indeed, Pezeshkian’s outspokenness will call into question the legitimacy of Trump’s anti-Iranian actions. rump’s disagreements with the European Union over Russia and the war in Ukraine will make Iran another bone of contention between them. Moreover, key Middle Eastern countries that supported Trump’s anti-Iran policies during his first term in the hope of limiting Iran’s regional power are now taking a different approach to Iran and trying to de-escalate tensions in the region. This may lead Trump to reconsider his anti-Iran policy.

Trump has exhausted everything except the military option against Iran, which has made Iran more prepared. In fact, Trump has implemented all his plans to cripple the Iranian economy and now has no other means to deal a serious blow to Iran, except for actions such as physical attacks on Iranian tankers in international waters. Meanwhile, Iran has developed effective alternatives to all sanctions mechanisms, has become more adept at creating conditions for sanctions evasion, and has increased its economic resilience. This is not to ignore the fact that sanctions have weakened Iran’s economic infrastructure, but it shows that America’s economic blows cannot cripple Iran and that Iran is now in a stronger position to withstand possible blows.

Today, Iran is also at an irreversible stage on the nuclear front. In 2018, Iran had a limited nuclear programme and was only allowed to enrich uranium to 3.67% and have 300 kilograms of uranium reserves under the JCPOA, but now Iran has increased its uranium enrichment rate to 60% with domestically developed centrifuges and could achieve a nuclear weapon within weeks if it so wished.

In addition to completing the cycle of nuclear deterrence, Iran has also achieved deterrence in the missile and drone fields, demonstrating to Trump that it is capable of delivering a direct blow to any threat. Iran’s missile attack on Israel on 13 April 2024 demonstrated Iran’s ability to overcome the most formidable defensive systems, significantly increasing Iran’s deterrent capability.

It is likely that Iran will take steps to soften its stance towards the West in order to deny legitimacy to possible pressure from Trump. Accepting the few remaining conditions of the FATF and being removed from the blacklist or continuing cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency could be among Iran’s pre-emptive measures against Trump. The Pezeshkian government’s foreign policy can be expected to be pragmatic and Tehran will take various steps towards détente without undermining Iran’s military deterrence. By sticking to its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA – as confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s reports – Iran has gained political and ethical legitimacy while demonstrating that it will not give up its red lines and accept bullying by the other side.

Given these shifting balances, some in Tehran argue that Trump will behave differently towards Iran than in the past, following the rule of measuring profit and loss, and that a period of low tensions with Trump is likely if Iran moves in the direction of playing the political game. In an interview with the Arab media, Ali Abdolalizadeh, Pezeshkian’s campaign manager, said of the possibility of new sanctions if Trump returns to power: ‘In fact, Trump’s presence increases the likelihood of sanctions being lifted because Trump is a trader and we understand the language of trade well’.

Although the words of this Iranian politician may seem somewhat optimistic, the ups and downs of political relations between Tehran and Washington over the past two decades show that the two countries’ relationship is broader than the nuclear issue and that limited negotiations will always remain fruitless due to the unfavourable general political environment between the two sides. Therefore, although the two countries need comprehensive and long-term negotiations, the Iranian side cannot be expected to have hope and confidence based on America’s political behaviour over the past four decades. Therefore, at best, the political situation in Iran and the United States in the Trump era may move towards a crisis freeze.

Pessimistic scenario: The Israeli factor

Faced with such a perspective, it is important not to lose hope, based on the strategic changes of the last four years, that Trump will be able to pursue a policy of de-escalation in Iranian-American relations, but not to lose sight of the fact that Israel is a serious variable in Iranian-American relations. Netanyahu is in the worst political situation after the Gaza crisis and needs the continuation of the conflict and Washington’s support to survive. Playing the victim to gain Washington’s support is an old policy in Israel’s history, but it is still effective, and the only country against which Israel can play the victim is Iran. Therefore, in a bad but very likely scenario, Israel could continue the genocide in Gaza, attack southern Lebanon, strike Iranian strategic targets and force Tehran to intervene militarily against it, raising the level of tension between Tehran and Washington.

It is impossible to analyse American behaviour in the Middle East without taking into account the Israeli variable and its function of compensating for the strategic weakness of the Zionist regime, which makes the situation between Trump and Tehran more complicated.

Continue Reading

OPINION

Trump assassination and the aftermath: The globalist elite in trouble

Published

on

Trump’s assassination came almost out of nowhere. Over the last six months, in my articles exclusively on Harici – which were compiled by friends of Harici and shared on my social media account (https://x.com/hasanunal1920/status/1812504314880864382) – I have repeatedly stated that all moves by the American deep state to block Trump had failed, that the former president’s chances of being elected were increasing in the polls, that this time he seemed to be much better prepared than when he was elected in 2016 and during his term in office (2017-2021), and that the possibility of an assassination to block him was not at all remote.

Why did I think that? Because Trump is against almost everything that the globalist American elite stands for, and as US president he will have the power to either stop or drastically change the policies that they have been implementing with huge benefits. Moreover, he is a presidential candidate who is deeply loved and supported by a large part of the American public.

Against neo-liberal policies and wars

The neo-liberal policies imposed by the United States on the whole world, especially since the 1980s, have impoverished a large part of the population and enriched those who have received a large part of the income and wealth. We, the Turkish people, are perhaps one of the worst victims of this situation. The American people and the European people have relatively the same problems. The rise of Trump, who is labelled as an enemy of democracy, and the rise of anti-establishment parties in Europe, which are labelled as far-right, is largely due to the destruction caused by these neoliberal policies.

Trump is also against the American deep state’s endless wars around the world, especially in the Middle East. During his election campaign in the past, Trump questioned all the justifications for the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, which have no known purpose but have devastated every country where they have been waged. According to Trump, seven to ten trillion dollars of American money has been thrown into these wars and nothing has been achieved. And all this talk of contributing to Israel’s security made no sense to Trump, since Israel was more than capable of defending itself and America could help directly if it got into trouble. In short, there was no need for so many wars.

During his term in office (2017-2021), he also tried to translate these views into American policy, but the American deep state clearly did not allow it. For example, he wanted to withdraw American troops from Syria to ease the Ankara-Washington line, which was strained by Turkey’s operations against the PKK/YPG, but diplomats and soldiers deceived Trump in a thousand ways and means. James Jeffrey, the former US ambassador to Ankara who was then the US State Department’s special envoy for Syria, said this openly in an interview he gave immediately after Trump’s election defeat, admitting that they deceived Trump and made it look as if the US troops in Syria were being withdrawn, but they were not.

Trump was not able to transform his ideas into policies in his first term for many reasons, such as the failure of his attempts at reconciliation against the many campaigns of attrition waged against him by the American deep state in his first term, and the fact that the neocon or deep state elements he brought into his cabinet turned against him, but it seems that his views and attitudes, which can be called Trumpism, have continued to live on in the hearts of a large part of the American public. The world has had the opportunity to observe this over and over again in the legal mechanisms and fictitious lawsuits against him in order to eliminate the possibility of his running for a second term. This can be seen over and over again, both within the Republican Party and in the attempts of the American elite to demonise Trump. The atmosphere has been created as if someone should come out and shoot this man.

Trump’s criticism of US foreign policy is not limited to the wars in the Middle East, which have wreaked havoc in the region and are falsely claimed to be fought in the name of democracy. He is also strongly opposed to the war in Ukraine. In Trump’s own words, there would be no war if he were in office, or if he were re-elected, one of his first acts would be to stop it. He insisted on this during and after the 2024 election campaign, and immediately after his meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, who came to see him after the NATO summit in Washington, and just one day before the assassination, he announced that one of his first acts after winning the election in November and moving into the White House would be to stop the war in Ukraine and allow a political solution to be found. In contrast, the NATO summit declaration in Washington gave the impression that it had been drafted in a warmongering manner, with NATO members declaring that they would pursue a policy of containment against Russia, which they regard as an enemy, and China and Iran, which they regard as threats.

If/after Trump is elected

Assassination, as the Americans call it, sounds like an inside job. A lone wolf looking twenty year old boy with a rifle, also used in the US army, arrives at the rally site, observes and finally takes up a position on the roof of a building with a suitcase of rifle parts. The witnesses of the organisation try to explain/show the police and especially the secret service officers that someone with a rifle climbed up there and put the rifle there, they try to point it out with their hands, but in vain, because they are not interested.

A nanosecond after the assailant fired eight shots in a matter of seconds, killing one protester and hitting Trump in the ear because he turned his head slightly, even though he was aiming for the head, all the security guards shot and killed the assailant. Meanwhile, Trump is on the ground or lying down. The bullet that was fired to shatter his head passed through his ear by an inch or an inch and a half. According to the scenario, Trump would be dead and the assailant dead in a second. Trump should have been dead, as he said at the Milwaukee rally where he was officially declared the nominee two days later, but he wasn’t.

Under the current circumstances, it is now much more likely that Trump will win the election. All American analysts make the same assessment. As the likelihood of a Trump victory increases, there may be no point in forcing Biden to withdraw from the race, as Trump can win against any candidate in the current environment. It may therefore be wiser to keep those of the Deep State’s reserves who are of age (Michelle Obama, Nikki Halley) on the sidelines.

On the other hand, it may be too optimistic to think that the structure of the American Deep State, that is, the established order, will accept the arrival of someone like Trump who will shake it to its foundations and let him do as he pleases. The possibility of an assassination attempt remains, but this possibility may have been diminished by the fact that his running mate when he formally announced his presidential candidacy in Milwaukee, J.D. Vance, is also a Trumpist, even though he has given speeches criticising Trump in the past. Vance, who will be vice-president if elected, comes from a very poor family and region. He is under forty years old and managed, against all odds, to graduate from one of the best universities in America and to become a member of Congress in recent years. He is a child of those low-income, struggling neighbourhoods that look to Trump for hope. Trump has chosen the perfect vice-president.

What the Deep State might do next, combined with the NATO statement, could be a far more far-reaching, frightening and terrifying game than 9/11. As many analysts are talking about, scenarios that would leave no choice but to use a dirty bomb in Ukraine and blame it on Russia, and then not to hold the election by raising the threat of nuclear war, or to continue that war even if it is held and Trump wins… But we should not forget that nowadays the background of such scenarios can be revealed in a short time. It could be the same this time, but for the first time the globalists and the financial and media circles acting in concert with them, who have been in power for decades as centre-right or centre-left, not only in the US but also in Europe, are in danger of being swept away. It will certainly be difficult for them to disappear, but multipolarity on the one hand and the balancing of the West by the Asian powers on the other have already dug and prepared the political grave of this elite. No one wants to die spontaneously, but the outcome cannot be prevented…

Continue Reading

OPINION

Iran has elected a new president: Where are the conspiracy theorists?

Published

on

In the second round of the presidential election last Friday (5 July), Masoud Pezeshkian was elected president with more than fifty-three per cent of the vote. At the time of writing, he may have formed his cabinet. The election process, which began in accordance with the Iranian constitution after the deaths of former President Raisi and Foreign Minister Abdullahiyan in a helicopter crash, ended in a very transparefnt and colourful manner and, as is often the case, between two candidates, the so-called conservative and the reformist. And the ‘reformist’ candidate, Pezeshkiyan, took the lead.

In short, there is nothing strange, incomprehensible or anything that would provide extraordinary material for the conspiracy theorists in our country, because it is not the first time that a so-called reformist candidate has been elected president. First Mohammad Khatami between 1997 and 2005 and then Hassan Rouhani (2013-2021) were elected for two terms each. Indeed, I still remember the first time I visited Iran, when Khatami’s foreign minister, Kemal Kharazi, graciously received me and we talked about the adjustments they were trying to make in Iran’s foreign policy, their desire to improve their relations with Turkey and Egypt in particular, and how important it was/would be for these three major countries of the Middle East to come together and establish a mechanism for political dialogue.

Why did we need so many conspiracy theories?

More precisely, what or who were the conspiracy theories about the deaths of Raisi and Abdullahiyan, which were broadcast for days on Turkish television, supposed to explain or analyse (!)? It is obvious that dealing with this question will not contribute to a better understanding of Turkey-Iran relations or shed light on how the foreign policy of a reformist president will be shaped, especially with regard to our region; however, it is of some importance in terms of deciphering the conspiratorial mindset in Turkey.

According to the conspiracy theories produced at the time and presented with mysterious words and writings, this could not have been a coincidence. Why was/is a great president on board such an old model helicopter? The same helicopters had been used by previous conservative or reformist presidents. What could have happened? But it was not so, or it should not have been so simple. According to our conspiracy theorists, Khamenei, the religious leader, should have done it through the Revolutionary Guard Corps, probably to establish a repressive regime.

But Raisi and Abdullahiyan, as representatives of the conservative wing, were closer to the religious leader within the Iranian system. From the beginning, Raisi ran as the religious leader’s candidate, won, became president, but now he had set his sights on replacing the old religious leader. So he had to be removed, and this was done because the Supreme Leader was in favour of replacing him with his son. But according to the Iranian constitution, his son was not even a member of the council that would elect the religious leader. Moreover, under the Iranian constitution, it was neither possible nor likely to establish a more repressive regime or to appoint anyone as a possible religious leader. As a result, the reformist candidate won the presidential election to replace the conservative Ayatollah Khamenei.

Conspiracy theories in Turkey-Iran relations

Conspiracy theorists and theorists continue their efforts to create obstacles in the development of Turkey-Iran relations, as they do in many other issues, with their theses that seem logical at first glance but fall apart when analysed with a little knowledge. Recently, they frothed and frothed over the news (!) of an American magazine. Middle East Eye magazine wrote that Iran had supplied dozens of advanced drones, anti-tank and other weapons and their ammunition to the PKK/PYD. And the conspiracy theorists in Turkey suddenly jumped on this and tried to explain that Iran was against us in Syria. They were probably trying to prevent the coming Turkish-Syrian reconciliation.

Neither Turkish nor other security sources confirmed the news, but this propaganda was widely spread, especially on social media and in some pro-government newspapers. Under the current circumstances, there is/can be no logical explanation as to why Iran, which is engaged in a tit-for-tat struggle with the US and Israel, would take such an action that would bring it into immediate confrontation with Turkey. But for the conspiracy theorists, this does not matter.

Ankara-Tehran relations in the new era

Aside from this, there is no reason why relations between Turkey and Iran should not continue to improve in the Pezeshkian era. If the normalisation process on Syria, which is expected to start with the messages from President Erdoğan and Syrian President Assad, develops as quickly as hoped, there is no doubt that this will have an additional positive impact on Ankara-Tehran relations. After all, Iran, like Russia, wants the war in Syria to reach a diplomatic conclusion that confirms the Damascus government’s success/victory. It may even want to be as active as Russia in the Turkey-Syria normalisation process. There should be no significant problem in terms of our national interests. After all, Iran and I are participating together in the Astana platform, which aims to bring peace to Syria.

Some of the news (!) about Iran, most of which is speculative and even manipulative, is related to the Zangezur corridor. In fact, at this point in time, there were (were) some partial truths that could be attributed to the news. For example, at the beginning of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War (September-October 2020), the then reformist Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, as if he did not want Azerbaijan to succeed, called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a return to the pre-war situation in statements on his social media account. However, when he realised that this would not be the case, and especially when he realised that Russia, due to its close relations with Turkey, would not be fully committed even if it helped Armenia, he gradually changed his position and showed his acceptance of the new situation, which resulted in Azerbaijan’s overwhelming and decisive victory.

The conservative leadership of Raisi-Abdollahian, which at first made statements as if it would not accept the new situation created by the Second Karabakh War, after a while, when it realised that Moscow did not agree with it on this issue, finally changed its demands to opposition to the violent opening of the Zangezur corridor and thus the elimination of the territorial border between Armenia and Iran.

This problem was largely solved by the Azerbaijani operation in the summer of 2023, when the extremist groups in Armenia that were trying to undermine Pashinyan’s peace initiatives were expelled from Karabakh by Azerbaijani forces. What remains is the signing of a peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia and, as part of this, the opening of the Zangezur corridor through Armenia’s sovereign territory, to which Tehran cannot be expected to object. Indeed, it has repeatedly stated that it does not. Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash, posed for the cameras at the inauguration of a bridge on the border between the two states, which had not been used in recent years because of the Armenian occupation.

Iran and relations with the West

Can a reformist president and his cabinet make a significant difference in Iran’s relations with the West, especially now? In the previous period, President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif seemed to have made a significant difference by signing the so-called nuclear deal (2015) after long negotiations with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France – and Germany. However, the unilateral withdrawal of the United States under Trump, forced by Netanyahu, the inability of the other five countries, which had strongly opposed it, to develop an alternative policy, and Iran’s enrichment of uranium for nuclear weapons, which rightly responded to all this, reversed the whole process.

It is unlikely that the Pezeshkian government will be able to take steps that will lead to significant policy changes in the eyes of the US and the West on this issue. The fact that Iran has acted as an ally of Russia since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, which marked the beginning of the multipolar world system, rules out such a possibility. Moreover, it is unlikely that any American administration would want to open a new page with Iran without the consent of Israel, which has been carrying out a genocidal ethnic cleansing in Gaza for almost ten months.

Under these circumstances, what remains is a scenario of war with Iran, in which a Trump administration that might come to the White House would likely wage a war against Iran together with Israel. If Trump, who is likely to end the war in Ukraine by not supporting the war in Ukraine, wants to get the support of the Israel lobby against the American deep state – which was clearly the reason for many of the steps he took in favour of Israel in his first term – could he turn to such a policy?

Such a scenario, which would shake everything in the Middle East, could be the result of a possible war between Israel and Hezbollah, even before Trump’s arrival. In all these scenarios, the likelihood of the new President Pezeshkian making sweeping policy changes is virtually zero, since there is no Western world to respond to such initiatives, nor are these areas for him alone to decide. In any case, he will have to act in concert with Supreme Leader Khamenei. Therefore, it seems that Iran will continue to oscillate between its active policy against Israel through its support for the Axis of Resistance forces on the one hand, and its policy of avoiding direct war on the other, based on the correct assumption that time is working in its favour.

Continue Reading

MOST READ

Turkey