Turkey’s Changing Calculus in the Middle East

Prof. Dr. Tarık OĞUZLU
13 August 2015
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Recent weeks have witnessed three game changing events in the Middle East. One is the nuclear deal that the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) plus Germany signed with Iran concerning the nuclear policies of the latter. The second is Turkey’s growing involvement in the international struggle against the ISIS following the implication of the movement in the killing of 32 Turkish nationals in a suicide bomb attack in the Turkish town Suruc along the Syrian border and the third event being the end of the so-called peace process that the Turkish government had been negotiating with the People’ Democratic Party (HDP) over the last two years which threatens to have serious geopolitical consequences in the region as well as within Turkey’s borders is the end. The bombing of PKK strongholds in northern Iraq as well as the other raids organized by the Turkish security forces against the PKK inside Turkey, hold out the possibility of changing national and regional calculations to a significant extent. Though all three events have their own peculiar dynamics, it would not be wrong to put them all into a singular context in which the linkages among them could be much better analyzed.


The first issue in this context is Iran’s regional influence across the Middle East, which will likely increase following the nuclear deal. The possibility of Iran playing a much more decisive and assertive role in the region, particularly pertaining to the solution of crises in Syria and Iraq, seems to have already disturbed Sunni monarchies and autocracies, as well as Israel. At stake from the perspective of such states is more the empowerment of Iran in regional politics than the possibility of eliminating Iran’s nuclear military capabilities in the near term. The assumption that the United States has acquiesced in Iran playing a more decisive role in Middle Eastern politics as part of its retrenchment and containment strategies has already irked Washington’s traditional allies and in turn led them to join forces to counter balance Iran. The nightmare scenario from the perspective of anti-Iranian circles in the region following the lifting of embargos is the availability of increased economic instruments for Iran in order to support clients across the region as well as buttress its regime at home.


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