Ankara-Tehran relations faced with many obstacles - analyst

Despite a burgeoning relationship between Turkey and Iran that is inspired by common interests, many obstacles, such as competing for influence in Central Asia’s Muslim republics, stand in the way of a genuine alliance, wrote analyst Alon J. Doenyas in an article published in the Israeli conservative Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) think tank. 

Turkey has been vocal about its readiness to enhance bilateral relations with Tehran in response to challenges arising from a U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran and other six world powers. 

The two countries are also united in their concern over developments in war-torn Syria, which have lead to numerous high-level meetings in recent years between officials, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani. 

Iran has always wanted to get closer to neighbouring Turkey, particularly when more Islamic-oriented parties are in power in Ankara, Doenyas wrote. 

Turkey serves as a huge potential market for Iranian oil and a country, which is ideal to align oneself with as a regional superpower, the analyst said. 

However, it is unlikely that Ankara and Tehran will ever get particularly close as major obstacles face the two countries.

Both countries designate themselves as playing a leading role in the Muslim world, albeit the different sects of Sunni and Shia Islam, which provides grounds for inherent conflict.

While the two nations are united in their concerns over the emergence of an independent Kurdish state, Doenyas wrote, “Iran has thrown its lot behind Bashar Assad’s regime, which Turkey opposes,’’ adding, “Tehran is backing the regime that is not only conducting these massacres but pushing millions to flee Syria – often for Turkey, where they are a great burden.’’

Competition between the countries for influence in Central Asia’s Muslim republics is another factor preventing Ankara and Tehran from becoming true allies, the analyst wrote, pointing to Tehran’s core principle of the spread of revolutionary Islam that being thwarted by Turkey’s similar ambitions. 

Another challenge in the Turkey-Iran friendship is the former’s relations with the United States and Israel, two countries that Iran has literally referred to as being satanic, the analyst said.