Yigal Schleifer, a journalist who consistently provides excellent analysis of Turkish politics and foreign policy from Istanbul, has a thoughtful article over at World Politics Review that breaks down the agreement among Brazil, Turkey, and Iran from Ankara’s perspective.
From his piece:
Turkey and its foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, appear to be taking a longer-term view on the issue, hoping to manage Iran, rather than confront it. The hope is that confidence-building measures might slowly change the Iranian leadership’s mentality. Turkish diplomats speak of changing Iran’s “psychology,” and, indeed, Davutoglu’s comments after the agreement was signed echoed that very clearly. The agreement represents “an important psychological threshold” of trust with Iran, he said after it was signed, adding that it also requires Tehran to make “psychological sacrifices.”
Turkey’s approach also appears to be shaped by a view that despite their status as regional rivals and its own worries about a nuclear-armed Iran, working with Tehran is the best way for Ankara to fully develop and realize its economic, political and diplomatic potential in the region. In that sense, the fuel swap deal is part of a wider Turkish effort to engage Iran and to put itself forward as an interlocutor that the Iranian regime can trust.
The risk for Ankara is that its own long-term approach to bringing Iran “in from the cold” does not fit into the tight timetable posed by the urgent questions surrounding Tehran’s nuclear program. At the same time, the Turkish government also appears to be staking its reputation and relations with Western allies on the hope that Iran is sincere in its own engagement with Turkey — and that the Iranian regime can actually be reformed. If Washington decides to move ahead on sanctions and disregard the fuel swap deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil, then Ankara just might find itself in the position of having improved relations with Iran at the expense of its relations with the United States and some of its other traditional allies.
Clearly, these are risks that Ankara is willing to take. In recent years, the trajectory of Turkish foreign policy has been marked by increased independence and self-confidence. Like the March 2003 vote by the Turkish parliament that denied the United States the possibility of opening up a northern front in its invasion of Iraq, the fuel swap deal signed in Tehran could very well offer Turkey another opportunity to further assert its independence and its vision for itself and the surrounding region. But for now, Turkey’s Iran policy remains a gamble.
You can read the full article here.
— Ben Katcher