Turkish envoy draws attention with veiled criticism of Iran in article for Israeli think tank

ANKARA: An article by Turkey’s ambassador in Washington for the journal Turkeyscope of Tel Aviv University’s Dayan Center for Strategic Studies, raised questions about the state of Turkey’s relations with Iran.

Besides seeking cooperation between Turkey and Israel in the fields of security and energy, Hasan Murat Mercan noted that both states are threatened by similar malicious regional actors, not to mention Iran.

The article did not go unnoticed in the Iranian media. The London-based Iran International TV channel commented on the report: “Ankara’s envoy to Washington has called for Israeli-Turkish cooperation to counter regional threats, in a possible allusion to Iran, as part of improving bilateral relations”.

The Ambassador also stressed the need for cooperation against terrorism.

“Turkey-Israeli interaction offers more than a conventional regional partnership in the face of malicious actors and tendencies. Conventional partnerships are for a particular issue, whether against a threat or for an objective. Conventional partnerships have dates of Turkey and Israel, on the other hand, share a common neighborhood, a heritage, and above all, a common future,” he said in his article titled “Turkey and Israel: Optimism Must Prevail.”

The Ambassador continued, “Managing malicious actors and their activities across our region is a particular area for enhanced coordination. The Turkish-Israeli partnership would be effective in further curbing destabilizing movements in the Greater Middle East and North Africa.

Israel and Turkey have always shared concerns about Iranian influence in Syria, with Iran’s proxies, including Hezbollah and Shiite militias, threatening Turkish interests.

Ambassador Mercan, a figure close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party, called for rethinking Turkish-Israeli relations towards mutual trust.

“Turkish and Israeli geostrategic interests dictate a close and multilevel partnership. “There is no room for complacency for both countries when it comes to: (i) managing regional dynamics that contain, among others, (a) symmetrical security threats and challenges, (ii ) the need to further secure and diversify energy supply routes, and (iii) promote cross-cultural synergy as a bulwark against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and all kinds of hate crimes.

This is not the first time that Mercan has highlighted Turkey’s concerns over the Iranian security threat to the region.

In a 2008 speech to Haaretz as chairman of the Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Mercan said a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a threat to Turkey.

As part of bilateral moves to restore ties, Israeli President Isaac Herzog met with Erdogan last month in Ankara. Erdogan recently said that Turkey and Israel can cooperate to bring Israeli natural gas to Europe.

“Although there are fluctuations in the relationship between Turkey and Iran, these countries know how to maintain the relationship within certain contours,” said Gallia Lindenstrauss, senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies. in Israel, at Arab News.

“There is, however, Turkish frustration with the growing competition between the two in northern Iraq, as well as the continued competition in Syria,” she added.

Several acts of espionage by Iranian agents against Israelis and Iranian dissidents on Turkish soil have recently been exposed and foiled by Turkish intelligence agencies.

Since last year, Turkish security forces have intensified their operations against the Iranian spy network in the country.

After arresting Iranian spies for a plot to kidnap a former Iranian soldier last October, other spies were also arrested in February before carrying out a plan to kill Turkish-Israeli businessman Yair Galler.

On the energy front, Iran also halted the flow of gas to Turkey for 10 days in January.

Lindenstrauss said cases such as the exposure of Iranian spies and the temporary shutdown of gas supplies in winter also increase tensions.

“Furthermore, one cannot ignore the fact that Turkey is drawing closer to the Gulf Arab states – mainly out of economic necessity – which also makes it less tolerant of Iranian attempts to increase its regional influence,” she said. .

Although it is part of Syria-focused Astana peace talks with Iran and Russia, Ankara mostly shares a common perception with Gulf countries of Iran as a threat.

However, Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkey program at the Washington Institute, said Turkey has always separated its relations with Iran from its process of rapprochement with Israel.

“Turkey has had competitive relations with Iran in the region. They see themselves as two ‘formerly imperial’ but ‘currently hegemonic’ great powers that have the right to shape regional developments,” he told Arab News.

“Throughout history, the two countries have avoided direct confrontations despite being very close to the conflict in Syria with Turkish troops on the one hand and Hezbollah and Iranian proxies on the other hand. close range.”

According to Cagaptay, the normalization of relations between Turkey and Israel will first pass through energy cooperation.

The US government has repeatedly suggested setting up alternative pipelines from Israel to Greece to Turkey amid sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine that threaten severe shortages across Europe .

“At this point, Turkey and Israel have similar goals in Syria. They both have right of way agreements, which allow Israel to hit Hezbollah and Turkey to hit the Kurdistan Workers’ Party,” he said.

In the meantime, Turkish state media channel TRT World recently published an article on whether the fallout from Ukraine could lead to Iran gaining the upper hand over Russia in Syria.

“Tehran is trying to take advantage of the Ukrainian crisis and strengthen its own position in the Syrian arena. Shortly after Russia attacked Ukraine in late February, Iran and the Syrian regime increased their strategic engagement by strengthening military diplomacy,” the article said. “At the same time, pro-Iranian fighters are working to relocate to different parts of Syria.”

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