Aug 29, 2013
Turkey and Iran tend to be rivals rather than close partners, despite sharing certain economic and security interests. For instance, Turkey supports the opposition in Syria, while Iran supports the regime. Turkey is further concerned about a possible nuclear arms race in the Middle East. U.S. and Turkish interests in the region closely overlap, but the United States should not expect Turkey to follow its policy toward Iran unconditionally.
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Turkish-Iranian cooperation has visibly intensified in recent years, thanks in part to Turkish energy needs and Iran's vast oil and natural gas resources. However, Turkey and Iran tend to be rivals rather than close partners. While they may share certain economic and security interests, especially regarding the Kurdish issue, their interests are at odds in many areas across the Middle East. Turkey's support for the opposition in Syria, Iran's only true state ally in the Middle East, is one example. Iraq has also become a field of growing competition between Turkey and Iran. Iran's nuclear program has been a source of strain and divergence in U.S.-Turkish relations. However, the differences between the United States and Turkey regarding Iran's nuclear program are largely over tactics, not strategic goals. Turkey's main fear is that Iran's acquisition of nuclear arms could lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. This, in turn, could increase pressure on the Turkish government to consider developing its own nuclear weapon capability. U.S. and Turkish interests have become more convergent since the onset of the Syrian crisis. However, while U.S. and Turkish interests in the Middle East closely overlap, they are not identical. Thus, the United States should not expect Turkey to follow its policy toward Iran unconditionally. Turkey has enforced United Nations sanctions against Iran but, given Ankara's close energy ties to Tehran, may be reluctant to undertake the harshest measures against Iran.
Turkey and Iran in a Changing Middle East
Israel and the Palestinian Issue
Central Asia and the Caucasus
The Nuclear Issue
The Economic Dimension
Prospects for the Future