Because it harbors the world’s largest known reserves of low-cost energy, the Middle East is a vital fulcrum in the global balance of power. The Middle East’s geopolitical importance, the kaleidoscopic nature of the politics among its states, the volatile social and political forces within these states and the regular interference of the planet’s superpowers will all insure that the region will remain a potentially explosive source of tension for years to come.
Emboldened after World War II by its military strength, the Soviets then set out to carve up their southern neighbors. Demanding territorial concessions, Moscow sought to wrest control of the Bosporus from Turkey [the Bosporus is the strait the separates Asian Turkey from European Turkey – see map] and refused to withdraw from northern Iran, which the Soviets had occupied in 1941. With the support of the United States, Turkey and Iran rebuffed the USSR’s coercive diplomacy and became key allies in American efforts to contain Soviet expansion.
The Central Treaty Organization (CENTO ) was a defense alliance between Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and Great Britain. Originally named the Baghdad Pact, the name was changed when revolution led Iraq to withdraw in 1959. The United States had observer status but wasn’t party to the treaty. The fall of the shah [in 1979 ] removed the American shield from Iran and sounded the death knell for the anti-Soviet CENTO alliance, and Iran sailed toward new horizons.
Now the same fate seems in store for Turkey. And this is all due to the badly-planned and injudicious support offered by Iraq’s occupying power – the U.S. government – for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Massoud Barzani. Now the so-called leader of the Iraqi Kurdish region, Barzani is the former tribal leader for the Iraqi Kurds.
Taking into account the ongoing assaults by PKK terrorists in Turkey’s southeast and the ill-advised support that the U.S. government has provided Iraqi Kurds, Turkey has drawn up plans for a new strategic alliance that will weaken ties to the U.S. and strengthen relations with Iran and Syria, its millennium-old neighbors.
The U.S. has failed to keep the promise it made to Turkey to confront the PKK. Turkey now feels that together with Iran, it has no choice but to attack the PKK’s sanctuaries in northern Iraq. Iran too is suffering from assaults from the same terrorist group, which operates under a different name: The Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK ).
The United States and Iran are increasingly at odds over a range of issues, while for the past 57 years, Turkey has stood by the U.S. as an old and devoted ally.
Surprisingly, American strategists seem to be encouraging Turkey and Iran to join forces to stop the violent attacks by the Kurds at the cost of losing Turkey as a faithful ally. Sympathy by the Turkish people for the U.S. has plummeted over recent years and will take decades to recover.
It now seems mandatory for Turkey and Iran to form a united front on areas of mutual interest. New and stronger cooperation in the economic field will play a major role in eradicating the political suspicion between the two countries. The parties recently announced a doubling of their volume of trade.
And both countries agree on eliminating the central point of discord: support for the other’s separatist and opposition groups. Iran has committed to adding the PKK to its list of terrorist organizations, and Turkey has done the same concerning the Iranian group “People’s Mujahedin of Iran .”
The next stage will be escalating high-level cooperation between Turkey, Iran and Syria, and this is moving forward as well.
And the political strategies of Russia and Turkey will merge due to common allies in Syria and Iran, shared economic interests and a shared aversion to America’s global policies – in particular its actions in Iraq. Countries that were once historical opponents will become partners as a new Eurasian coalition comes into force.
The final result of the region’s aversion to American policies will be the formation of the “Union of Four:” Russia, Turkey, Iran and Syria. Of course, this rapprochement between Ankara, Moscow, Damascus and Teheran will certainly affect Washington’s position in the Middle East.