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PV Vivekanand: Turkish-Iranian rift widens — II
April 11, 2012
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The Iranian-Turkish rift has also appeared on the diplomatic front. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu recently rejected criticism by Iranian Chairman of the Shura Council Ali Larijani that last week’s “Friends of Syria” meeting was “in fact a conference for those bought by Israel and not for Syria’s friends.”

“We often see in Europe that domestic politics are used for foreign affairs, which has always disappointed us,” Davutoglu said. “We find it odd that foreign affairs are being made domestic matters in Iran. We hope it will not be repeated. Nobody will benefit from stirring up different opinions in Iran as a matter of Turkish-Iranian relations.”

Ankara summoned the Iranian ambassador to lodge a protest and the diplomat, according to Davutoglu, apologised saying that only the president, the foreign minister and the supreme leader could make statements on issues of Iran’s foreign affairs.

In the meantime, Turkey has said it has no objection to a shift of the venue for the Iranian nuclear talks to another country. But there are pressing reasons not to postpone the meeting.

A delay in the talks mean a delay of any military option contemplated by Israel, even as the US and the Jewish state remain at odds over the timing of the action. Israel wants immediate action and might even go it alone and let the US deal with the resulting situation whereas Washington does not want the inevitable regional conflagration that would follow and its impact on Obama’s bid for re-election in November.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak reaffirmed his country’s position last week: “We are waiting for the results of the negotiation. We will be following the talks to make sure Iran isn’t using negotiations to stall for time to advance its nuclear programme.”

“Israel is prepared to wait for the negotiations’ results before it decides on a course of action. It’s not a matter of weeks, but not of years either,” he said, reiterating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position.

No matter how one looks at it, the Syrian crisis has been inducted into the dispute over the Iranian nuclear programme and vice-versa. Both Tehran and Damascus as well as the US and its allies are trying to figure out how to make the best of the situation. None of the parties has shown any willingness to make any compromise.

The questions facing Iran are clear:

Will the US-Israel combine dare to call its bluff and launch military action against it? If so, when?

Will Israel go against the US will and launch attacks on Iran and let Washington pick up the bill?

What other measures could the West adopt in its intense effort to tighten the net around Iran?

How far and how long will the Syrian regime be able to withstand the rebellion with the added support of Turkey and others in military terms?

How far could Turkey be expected to strike a balance between its bilateral relationship with Iran and the Turkish involvement in the campaign to out Tehran’s Syrian ally?

The obvious short-term scenario is: Iran will stall for as much time as possible in the nuclear dispute not only for itself but also for the Syrian regime to continue its crackdown on dissent and hopefully emerge with the upper hand in the conflict. Syria, whose military and security forces largely left intact against a fizzled-out revolt, is a major asset for Tehran in the nuclear dispute.

But Turkey seems to be equally determined not to let that happen. It does not seem to be worried over Iran’s nuclear intentions, but it has let its feet slide too far into the Syrian conflict to pull out now. At the same time, it will also be clashing head-on with Iran, which will fight tooth and nail to safeguard the Syrian regime.

What happens next is anyone’s guess.

(Concluded)

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