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News Analysis

Turkey Endorses Iranian Nuke, No One Notices

Thu, December 20, 2012

by: 
Ryan Mauro

In an unnoticed statement during an interview in September, the Islamist Prime Minister of Turkey justified a potential Iranian nuclear weapon. Erdogan’s government is also increasing its trade with Iran, defiantly and blatantly ignoring international sanctions meant to stop its nuclear program. For many, the recognition that Turkey is no longer the ally it once was and is going down the Islamist path is a pill too bitter to swallow.

Erdogan previously defended the innocence of the Iranian regime’s nuclear program, saying in May, “Military threats against a country that seeks to master peaceful nuclear technology are not acceptable.”

In an interview with the Washington Post in September, he agreed with the rationale for an Iranian nuclear weapon (which could also be the rationale for a Turkish nuke in the future), saying, “But let’s say a country that doesn’t have nuclear weapons gets involved in building them, then they are told by those that already have nuclear weapons that they oppose [such a development]. Where is the justice in that?”

The interviewer pushed him on the difference between an Israeli and Iranian nuke, pointing out that the Iranian regime frequently talks about destroying Israel. His answer was the simple equivocation, “Israel is saying the same for Iran.”

The Turkish government is also undermining the sanctions enacted to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. A senior Turkish official said his country would ignore the sanctions and continue doing business as usual with Iran’s energy sector, the primary source of revenue for the Iranian regime’s budget and therefore, its nuclear program.

Trade between the two countries increased an incredible 46% this year. About $7 billion of the $20 billion comes from Turkish purchases of Iranian oil and gas with gold. Some of these gold payments are sent via Dubai, allowing Turkey to escape some of the negative attention that the transactions could cause.

Turkey’s actions seem inconsistent with its foreign policy. Turkey and Iran’s rivalry goes back to the Ottoman and Safavid Empires. Iran threatens to attack Turkey if Israel or the U.S. strikes its nuclear facilities, and the two are on opposite sides in Syria. The Syrian rebels would likely have been extinguished if it weren’t for Turkey’s hospitality.

Yet, Turkey publicly endorses the Iranian regime’s innocence on its nuclear program, votes against United Nations sanctions on Iran and helps the regime sustain itself when its collapse would probably bring about a friendlier government.

Perhaps it’s just business. Iran is the second largest supplier of gas to Turkey. Perhaps Erdogan is worried about dirtying his Islamist credentials by appearing to be too close to the West. Or maybe it’s a mistake to apply Western logic to any Islamist, even one that appears relatively tame like Erdogan. At the end of the day, Islamists are always closer to each other on the issues that most concern them than they are to the West.

Whatever the reasons for Turkey’s inconsistent and seemingly counter-productive behavior, it’s real, even if we have trouble understanding it. Western psychology always seems to assume that insincerity lies behind what we can’t understand.

If we hear declarations of jihad or calls to resurrect the Caliphate, it has to be political rhetoric for domestic consumption. After all, for Westerners, the pandering and bravado of leaders is something we are accustomed to. We are not accustomed to Islamist thought.

It’s unsettling to think that Turkey, a Muslim country once devoted to secularism and allied with the West, could move away from our ideas and towards Islamist ideas that Westerners reject as unenlightened. But it’s happened and is happening.

The good news is that Turkey and Iran are bound to switch places. The Islamist tide is rising in Turkey, but it is quickly receding in Iran. Instead of relying on Turkey to help deal with its problems with Iran, the West should expedite the arrival of a free Iran to help deal with its problems with Turkey.

Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org's National Security Analyst and a fellow with the Clarion Fund. He is the founder of WorldThreats.com and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.