The chief of staff of the Iranian military, Mohammad Bagheri, made an “unprecedented” visit to Turkey this week, meeting with Turkey’s military chief of staff and marking the first such visit of the highest Iranian military officer since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.
A Turkish pro-government newspaper called it a “milestone,” noting that such a meeting between the two would never have been possible if the countries weren’t making alliances with one another regarding Syria and Iraq.
Since Ankara was forced to make amends with Moscow after shooting down a Russian plane making maneuvers in the Syrian war, Turkey has been towing the Russian party line in the Syrian civil war – and thus, de facto, in an alliance with Russia’s ally Iran.
Yet the meeting was about much more — more than the Sunni/Shia divide and more than Turkey’s surreptitious support of ISIS in Iraq (more on that later).
Whatever the difference between these two powers vying for hegemony in the Middle East, a common ground between them is their absolute commitment to making sure the Kurds don’t gain autonomy and establish an independent state.
The Kurdish regions of Turkey and Iran span the border between the two countries (and also include parts of Syria and Iraq). Such a state would necessarily be taken out of those regions. The fact that Kurds from both countries are involved supporting each other over the border has been enough to cause Turkey to build a “security wall” to prevent such cooperation.
The prospect of Kurdish independence for Turkey is so alarming that throughout the regional war, Turkey used the ruse of joining the American coalition against ISIS as an excuse to bomb the Kurds.
Now that America is arming Kurdish forces fighting ISIS – arguably the most effective forces to date combating the brutal terror group – it is worth it for Turkey and Iran to put their differences aside and join forces against what they perceive as ever-growing Kurdish power and world acceptance.
Turkey has much to gain by its alliance with Russia and Iran. It is in the closing stages of securing the powerful S-400 missile defense system from Russia, and it recently signed a $17-billion agreement with Russian companies to supply Turkey with much-needed oil they are no longer able to buy at contraband prices from ISIS.
They are engaged as well in business with Iran, having signed large contracts with an Iranian company to supply them with natural gas.
No one should be surprised at the increased and “unprecedented” cooperation between Turkey and Iran. When it comes to advancing its own agenda, Turkey will not hesitate to make alliances even with those who might be their natural enemies.
With Turkey’s move away from the United States, Turkey has significantly less constraints in advancing its extremist Islamist agenda. Certainly Iran (or for that matter Russia) will not complain while Turkey crushes the Kurds, injects massive funding into Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and pumps up Qatar in its current dispute with the Gulf and Arab states over Qatari terror funding.
Turkey’s alliance with Iran only lends it additional stability and throws more weight behind these dangerous causes.
Hegemony for the region can wait.