Iran-Turkey Relations, 1979-2011: Conceptualizing the Dynamics of Politics, Religion and Security in Middle-Power States

By Kiziltoprak, Suleyman | Insight Turkey, Spring 2013 | Go to article overview

Iran-Turkey Relations, 1979-2011: Conceptualizing the Dynamics of Politics, Religion and Security in Middle-Power States


Kiziltoprak, Suleyman, Insight Turkey


Iran-Turkey Relations, 1979-2011: Conceptualizing the Dynamics of Politics, Religion and Security in Middle-Power States By Suleyman Elik London: Routledge, 2011, 272 pages, ISBN 9780415680875.

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This book is the first comprehensive exploration of Iranian-Turkish relations since 1979. It attempts to clarify contemporary political historiography concerning two of the most important regions, first the Middle East, and second Central Asia and the Caucasus. The contribution of this study comes from the application of an 'experimental-integrated model' to develop a particular type of framework.

In the first chapter, the author describes the nature of Iranian-Turkish relations and the theory of middle-power states. It not only explains the foundation of the two countries' relations but also offers an alternative approach to middle-power states' relations in the Middle East. The holistic model the author proposes examines the theory of continuity and change in foreign policy making that has been experienced in the long tradition of Turkish-Iranian politics.

In the second chapter, Suleyman Elik stresses the importance of four diplomatic crises between Iran and Turkey since the beginning of the 20th century. Elik also argues that relations between Turkey and Iran have been tumultuous since their outset as there have been alternative regimes, either republican or monarchical, in the last century. Hence, this competitive relationship has materialized on the issues of Kurdish nationalism and ideological differences, either religious or secularist. The issues over the headscarf and Palestine caused two separate diplomatic crises in 1989 and 1997. However, Turkey and Iran have restored their relationship and ratified a new principle of noninterference in each other's internal affairs in the 2000s.

In the third chapter, Elik explains the influence of terrorism by using the metaphor of a phantom in Iranian-Turkish relations. He identifies the role of terror in Iranian-Turkish relations as a counter-terror strategy or counter-revolutionary politics by Turkey. This strategy is a way of controlling and manipulating public opinion by using fear, propaganda, disinformation, psychological warfare, agents provocateurs, as well as "false flag" terrorist actions. The portrayal of religious terror also magnifies the dangers of suspicion in politics--analyzing assassinations related to the two countries is a good way to understand these dynamics. The analysis of political assassinations and of the Turkish Hezbollah mainly aims to answer the question of how the state manipulates or transforms religious issues into a type of political terror.

In the fourth chapter, the author focuses on Iranian-Turkish security relations in the framework of the Kurdish guerrilla warfare. Turkey's clientele role of hosting American strategic weapons systems at a base in Incirlik, plus with Iran's negative balancing role, has caused problems in Middle Eastern regional affairs. This chapter provides a detailed overview and analysis of the security mechanisms in Turkey and Iranian relations. There are two small systematic engagements between the two neighboring countries regarding the border and the High Security Commission. The Turkey, Iran, Syria tripartite commission is analyzed as a case study of these security patterns specifically in terms of regional security engagement on Kurdish nationalism.

In the fifth chapter, Elik deals with Iranian-Turkish security relations in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Elik describes the region as Turkish and Iranian frontline security zones which have been under siege from Russia since the 18th century. Russia's final success as a winner in the "Great Game" at the end of World War One resulted in the total disappearance of the Turkic people of Central Asia from world politics until the end of the Cold War; however, in 1991, the dissolution of the Soviet Union put an end to the Russian hegemonic presence and introduced "New Great Game" actors in the regional political theatre, while at the same time the states there remained unstable, vulnerable and weak due to the continuity of Soviet Russia's sphere of influence which led to religious and ethnic wars in the post-Soviet period in Central Asia and the Caucasus. …

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