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Just days after a visit with Russian President Vladimir Putin by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Moscow, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, is set to hold talks with Turkey in Ankara; the first high level foreign official to visit since the coup attempt in July. After Putin and Erdogan smoothed their differences over in Moscow, Erdogan remarked,
“[T]he Moscow-Ankara friendship axis will be restored.”
Now comes the Iranian foreign minister, which the Turkish foreign ministry issued a statement on Thursday saying that Zarif will first meet Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, in Ankara and then will be received by Erdogan in his presidential palace. The recent visit with Putin and upcoming visit with Zarif come on the heels of Erdogan slamming the West (though Erdogan doesn’t name the countries of the “West” he is chastising, it’s clear he is referring to the United States for not handing over Fethullah Gulen, exiled cleric who lives in Pennsylvania). Erdogan said,
“The West is supporting terrorism and taking sides with coups. They have actors (Gulen supporters) inside (Turkey) but the scenario of this coup was written abroad (in the United States by Gulen).”
It is no secret that Tehran and Moscow both support Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad and have done so for years, but this new “friendship” that Turkey seeks with Iran and Russia puts Erdogan’s position on Assad right in the crosshairs; Erdogan has made no qualms about Assad needing to be removed from power in order for Syria to have peace. Erdogan maintains his position on Assad despite his new relations with both Iran and Russia and was quick to note that both countries were quick to offer support to Turkey on the night of the coup attempt. Adding to this delicate balance is Turkey’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, a friendship that has strengthened in the last few months that could potentially cause problems with Iran considering the two countries are sworn enemies.
Erdogan is giving the West the impression he wants to cut himself off from NATO and the United States by engaging in relations with both Iran and Russia just weeks after a coup attempt rocked the country. A coup attempt that Erdogan claims was orchestrated by Fethullah Gulen who is exiled in the United States and who the United States will not extradite without concrete evidence he was actually behind the coup attempt. This turned Erdogan into a petulant child who demanded the United States turn Gulen whilst throwing a tantrum and saying the U.S. is “supporting terrorism and taking sides with coups.” Erdogan is playing a dangerous game and may find himself getting squeezed by his fellow NATO countries as well as Iran and Russia. Who will he blame then?
Theresa Giarratano is a retired US Army NCO studying Middle Eastern affairs with special emphasis on global terrorism. Her current status is assisting the Kurdish people by disseminating information regarding the fight against ISIS via social media platforms.