Iran, Turkey, the West Europe Still Keeps Turks from Gates of Vienna; the US Is Skeptical of Iran's Thaw. Wiser Approaches Are Needed

The Christian Science Monitor, December 17, 1997 | Go to article overview

Iran, Turkey, the West Europe Still Keeps Turks from Gates of Vienna; the US Is Skeptical of Iran's Thaw. Wiser Approaches Are Needed


Despite the Kyoto pledges of America and Europe to burn less oil in coming decades, neither has lost interest in drilling for the stuff that makes most factories and vehicles go. And rightly so.

Solar, wind, thermal, and nuclear power will certainly be on the increase. Petroleum will doubtless be burned or fuel-celled more efficiently. But the appetite for crude oil's many products (plastics and lubricants as well as jet, car, home, and factory fuels) will rise before declining. And, remember, Kyoto didn't win any promises from China, India, Brazil, and scores of other nations.

All of which brings us back once more to the subject of Iran and Turkey. In the oil context, they happen to lie astride pipeline routes and sea lanes for moving Caspian basin oil and gas out to the West and elsewhere. They also wield influence over the stability of petroleum delivery from what remains the world's biggest oil spigot, the region around the Persian Gulf. That's the hard-headed commercial reason for being serious about these two quite different powers in the Islamic world. There are, of course, other social and political reasons for the West to aim at good relations. That's why the interests of both Europe and America require genuine efforts to break current impasses. Until fairly recently, it appeared that the EU and US might play Turkey off against Iran. That policy involved making Turkey a Western surrogate to states abutting the Black and Caspian Seas and beyond. The strategy was to make use of both roots and routes. Namely, historic Turkic roots that tied peoples in heartland Asia to Turkey, and logical routes for pipelines. That approach would have allowed Washington to pursue its increasingly ineffective "dual containment" policy of isolating Iran and Iraq. But nothing went quite right. Europe, having depended heavily on Turkey as NATO's strong anchor during the cold war, kept delaying the marriage it had dangled in front of Ankara. There was engagement, yes: a customs union, and promises of more. But the ceremony date was ever receding. And last week the fiancee rebelled. Turkey angrily rejected a proposed conference with Europe that looked like a sop to cover the fact that Cyprus and five nations from the old Soviet bloc had been invited to start membership talks with the European Union and five others were offered preparatory talks. …

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