SAIS Next Europe

« Previous Post | Next Post »

Turkey's Offer to Mediate Iran/US Conflicts

By Hande Atay-Alam

Could Turkey help mediate longstanding U.S./Iran conflicts over Israel and Iran's nuclear ambitions? Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to try -- but the Obama administration may be less likely to give him a chance because of comments Erdogan made recently in Washington.

"Turkey wants to be the mediator between the new Obama administration and Iran, using its growing role in the Middle East to bridge the divide between East and West," Erdogan told the New York Times on November 9.

But on November 14 at the Brookings Institution, Erdogan suggested that Iran's desire for nuclear weapons was "normal for any country" and that countries with such weapons should consider getting rid of them -- a position at odds with both Turkish and NATO policy and unlikely to convince the Obama administration that Erdogan would be a useful go between.

"You have nuclear weapons but you tell your opponent not to have it. That country (Iran) tries to defend itself when faced with such demands, which is normal for any country," Erdogan told his Brookings audience. "I see this part as a question mark. We should review this approach for humanity. Investments go to weapon industry, not to world peace or poor countries."

Erdogan made his comments on nuclear weapons policy in response to audience questions posed after he'd given a prepared speech. He argued in the speech itself that Turkey could be trusted by both Iran and the US, and was therefore better positioned to moderate conflicts than the European Union's troika of Britain, France and Germany.

Last week, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi indicated that the Islamic republic would not oppose Turkish mediation of nuclear talks with the West. "We will certainly not create any obstacles in the way of such moves."

But Erdogan's comments at Brookings may make him less acceptable to the incoming Obama administration.

On the idea of Erdogan's nuclear free region "It is totally unrealistic that US will agree to that" Omer Taspinar, Turkey Project Co-Director in Brookings Institution said.

"This would definitely please Tehran. However, his words will not only upset the U.S, but Turkey's other NATO allies as well," Semih Idiz wrote from the Turkish newspaper Milliyet. "It seems Erdogan is not aware of the alliance's nuclear policy, nor the fact that Turkey approved it."

It seems likely, in other words, that Erdogan will need to change his dream of a nuclear free region before Turkey can play the mediator role its prime minister desires.

Hande Atay-Alam is a graduate student in the European Studies program at the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C.

Email the Author | Email This Post | Del.icio.us | Digg | Facebook

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Johns Hopkins University.

Comments (2)

hgcsato Author Profile Page:

1. Agree with ZIGGYZAP below. NPT is the only international framework and body of law to regulate nukes, not the wishes and or suspicions of some countries.

2. Turkey is trying to reformulate itself after being rejected out of EU. Nothing more. But it shall remain up to Turkey to prove that it is the genuine article. The Erdogan era is a good start as Turkey opposed the Iraq war and Turkey has a common objective with Iran (and Syria) of taming Kurdish ambitions to gain independence.

3. Iran and Turkey also have a long standing peace treaty of Qasre-Shirin which has stood the test of time over 5 centuries. This means they understand each other a lot better.

4. Turkey has the 2nd largest army in NATO and must be listened to by the rest of the alliance, if Turks have a new idea.


ziggyzap Author Profile Page:

There is nothing to mediate. Under the NPT, Iran has the INALIENABLE right to run a nuclear energy program, including the enrichment of uranium. No nation has any right to try to coerce or even demand that Iran cease this perfectly legal activity.

If the USA wishes to discuss matters with Iran without setting preconditions and without trying to force Iran into abandoning its legal rights and activities, then that's another story. However, if the USA makes demands that are designed to abrogate Iran's legal rights, then there's nothing to discuss and Iran should merely continue its course, within the framework of the IAEA.

Incidentally, Iran has fully complied with all NPT requirements and is NOT REQUIRED to subject itself to anything else outside this treaty, such as the Additional Protocol. Iran did this VOLUNTARILY as a sign of good faith and got kicked in the teeth. This additional cooperation has now ceased, however Iran is under no obligation to enter the Additional Protocol again.

If the Americans don't like the fact that Iran is exercising its legal rights under an international treaty, that's too damn bad. The USA has broken literally every treaty it has signed, most recently trashing the NPT by its illegal nuclear deal with India. So why should Iran even listen to any American demands?

The answer is - Iran should completely ignore the USA until it start acting like a responsible entity instead of the rogue nation that it has been for decades. It is not Iran that deposed elected governments, started illegal wars, assassinated leaders, kidnapped people off the streets of other nations and incarcerated them without trial in a concentration camp in Cuba.

Iran has not started a war for at least four centuries and has acted within the law at all times. The USA had better start respecting this, or it will get nowhere fast.

PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions.