Ankara A group of Turkish retired top generals and ambassadors diagnosed late last week the development of "theocratic nationalism" in Iran and asked for a genuine assessment of possible negative implications of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's new policies and nuclear program on the highly sensitive balance in Turkish-Iranian relations. The Foundation for Middle East and Balkan Studies' (OBIV) Foreign Policy and Defense Studies Group, including former Foreign Ministers Vahit Halefoglu and Ilter Turkmen, former ambassadors Guner Oztek and Candemir Onhon, as well as retired top generals Ahmet Corekci and Salim Dervisoglu, prepared a report on the recent developments in Iran and their implications for Turkey.
The report entitled "Our distant neighbor, Iran" pointed to the differences between Turkey and Iran, such as political regimes, religious sects, different methods in foreign policy, but also stressed that due to their similar size, power and strategic positions, both countries refrained from getting into conflicts and enjoyed rather peaceful but frosty relations. Commenting on recent developments, the report underlined that Turkey now has to develop a genuine assessment of President Ahmadinejad's new policies and nuclear program, and their possible negative impact on the sensitive balance between Iran and Turkey.
The report did not elaborate what Turkey's position might be in a time of a military conflict between the U.S. and Iran, but recalled Ankara's decision in the late '90s to build a natural gas pipeline from Iran, despite objections by its strategic partner the U.S. "This shows that neighborhood and mutual benefits may become more significant for Turkey than being in harmony with its main strategic partner U.S.," the report stressed.
One of the most striking parts of the report was the prediction of a new political transformation in Iran. The retired generals and ambassadors said that Iran will soon face a new power struggle and change, but this will not be towards democracy but towards further radicalization. "What we refer to by radicalization is not a religious fundamentalism. We have a new growing tendency in Iran which can be described as nationalism with religious elements," the report underlined, also describing Ahmadinejad as the representative of this growing nationalism. According to the report, Ahmadinejad, by insisting on the nation's nuclear program, is seeking to develop potential for possible nuclear arms and also fueling nationalist feelings among Iranians.
The report further stressed that foreign pressure on Iran's nuclear program is doing nothing but fueling these nationalist sentiments. The report concluded by asking, "How are we going to define an extreme nationalist, aggressive Iran with nuclear weapons and missile technology? Are we going to talk about a new phenomenon, a theocratic nationalism?"