December 2, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 9065

Anti-Turkish Statements In Iran – Part I: Iranian Daily: Erdogan Is Pursuing A Policy Of Religious, Ideological War, Hiding His Hostile Regional Policy Behind An Islamic Mask

December 2, 2020
Iran, Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 9065

This is the first in a series of reports reviewing the current tension in Iran's relations with Turkey, which was recently give public expression in the Iranian media. The Iranian regime is alarmed by the expansionist ambitions of Turkey's Sunni Islamist government, headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which come at the expense of Shi'ite Islamist Iran and its resistance axis.

On November 10, 2020, the Iranian daily Sobh-e Emrooz addressed this issue in an article titled "How Far Do Turkey's Ambitions Extend? Erdogan and the Dream of Ottoman Rule." The article claims that Erdogan is making utilitarian use of his Islamic policy vis-à-vis the peoples of the region and especially the West and the European countries. Erdogan, it explains, champions Islam only as a tool to further his own interests, and has become an instigator of global and regional disorder who is waging, in the name of Islam, a religious and cultural war against the West. The daily adds that Erdogan collaborated with the European countries in promoting extremist Islamic ideology in the Middle East by supporting ISIS, and has sparked conflicts in Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh, Syria and elsewhere. He is pursuing a cynical policy aimed at creating regional, inter-religious and inter-cultural conflicts, so as to present himself as the defender of Islam in the Islamic world and the West and further his political and strategic objectives to the greatest possible extent.  

The following is a translation of the article: [1]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Source: Sobh-e Emrooz, Iran).

"Southwest Asia [i.e., the Middle East] and the regional powers (Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and to some extent Pakistan), as well as the powers near them (Russia) and the powers outside the region (the U.S., France, etc.), have constantly been engaged in a very complicated political game aimed at displaying strength and achieving hegemony. Each of the powers in southwest Asia and North Africa has always depicted itself as a hegemonic superpower and used every means at its disposal to dominate the region. Turkey is one of the big powers in southwest Asia that has always striven to gain power and display it throughout the region and even beyond it. In the last two decades, the Turkish government, headed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has managed to make a show of force throughout western Asia and North Africa, as a superpower and a successful model of government by employing a very comprehensive and clever policy.

"Erdogan's goal and dream of completely dominating southwest Asia and North Africa by 2023 began to take shape in the last decade, amid the emerging developments in the Arab world, [namely] the Arab Spring. Now they [this dream] has reached the point where the entire region is in crisis, and the flames of war have placed other major players in the area, especially Iran, before dangerous challenges.

"It is possible to take several perspectives on the Turkish government's new tension-generating policy vis-à-vis the developments in Europe, and on [Turkey's] political and diplomatic confrontation with European leaders, such as [French President] Emmanuel Macron, [a confrontation] that is waged in the name of Islam and serves Erdogan's interests. The main element of Erdogan's policy as Turkey's senior policy-shaper is based on highlighting two aspects of Turkey's national identity: its Islamic identity and its Turkish identity. The Islamic identity was focused upon and promoted in the Arab arena, whereas the Turkish identity was promoted among the Turkic-speaking countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Erdogan's model of government was presented as a successful Islamic model and as an alternative to the Arab dictatorships in the region, especially those of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, etc.

"Erdogan's [efforts to] spread his model of government in southwest Asia and North Africa was relatively successful and was accepted by many people in this arena. As a result, it was also accepted by the shapers of international policy, such as the U.S. and the EU, as a modern Islamic model of government, and they supported it without reservation. The Islamic guise of Erdogan's international policy was meant to deceive the people of the Islamic world, for in Turkey itself, many citizens, parties and ethnic groups are severely oppressed and discriminated against by Erdogan's government. This Islamic guise was used to enlist some of the governments and peoples in the Arab world, and even in Pakistan, [in support of Turkey's policy, and this was done] so successfully and effectively that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar formed an alliance against [Iran's] resistance axis.  

"When this alliance between Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar collapsed, Erdogan's foreign policy and model of government lost a great deal of clout in the Arab world. The governments and peoples of the Arab world became aware of some of Turkey's ambitions to reconquer the Arab countries of the [former] Ottoman Empire, and this removed the Islamic mask from Erdogan's policy, [which is actually based on] ethnic and linguistic (Turkic) identity.   

"One of the overt expressions of the Turkish government's policy during the last decade, in the beginning of the Arab Spring, was its joining with, rapprochement and extensive cooperation with Western countries, especially the U.S. and the European powers (France, Germany and England), against the resistance axis and Iran's interests in southwest Asia [the Middle East]. Turkey's rapprochement and cooperation with the U.S. and the European powers, especially France,  was such that Erdogan often openly called for NATO and the U.S. to stage harsh and widespread attacks in Syria and topple the legal Bashar Al-Assad government. [Erdogan also] placed all of Turkey's means at the disposal of the Western-backed terror groups and organizations in Syria and Iraq.

"With the collapse of the Turkish-Saudi-Qatari coalition, the Erdogan government's alliance and cooperation with the West against Iran's strategic interests in the region gradually transformed into a deep schism between Turkey and Europe.  In the new power-balance that formed in southwest Asia and North Africa, the European powers and the U.S. turned to support Erdogan's new enemies and rivals, namely Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE, and took a hostile approach to Erdogan's expansionist policy in the region.

"Erdogan's expansionist ambitions, which inform Turkey's international policy, caused world powers such as Russia, the U.S., Germany and others to become Turkey's enemies in Libya, Syria, Nagorno-Karabakh, Greece and elsewhere, and they defined Turkey's policy as causing tension and crisis [that threatens] global order. Most of the current tension between the governments of Turkey and France is due to Erdogan's ambitious geopolitical policy, which sparks concern in Western governments, and especially in France, that Erdogan means to renew Turkey's control over Europe.

In order to gain support and legitimacy in the West and especially in France, Erdogan adopted a policy of religious and ideological war, and concealed his hostile and Hobbesian (anarchist) policy in the region behind an Islamic mask.  The Turkish president took advantage of some of the events, moves and statements of the European leaders vis-à-vis Islamic extremism and extremist Islamist groups in Europe, and used them as political justification for his policy, generating a wave of hostility between the monotheistic faiths and reviving the religious and cultural war, while purporting to support and [defend] the prestige of Islam.   

 "Turkey, once considered a bridge between West and East with a constructive and effective role in the world order, became an instigator of conflagration. [Once recognized for] its unique role in regional and international contacts and cooperation, especially between Europe and Asia, and between two political and security coalitions and blocs in the world, many experts now  define it as a source of division and tension.   

"Turkey could have alleviated the disagreements between many players, in particular among the great powers of southwest Asia and North Africa. But in the last decade it has turned to starting fires of hostility on every security and political front in the region, and has itself become a major cause of disorder and tension in the global order. In the current situation, the world order, suffering from the Covid [pandemic] and from harsh military conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, cannot handle another global crisis, especially one characterized by a clash of civilizations and religions. The global prominence accorded to the publication of several cartoons - [namely the cartoons] disparaging the great Prophet of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad, published by the French magazine Charlie Hebdo - is not so much an independent policy of the West and especially of France as it is a result of the collaboration in the last decade between some Islamic governments and the West, in particular France. [This collaboration] was aimed at spreading Islamist extremism and absorbing and enlisting extremist Muslims in the West, in order to strengthen extremist groups and organizations like ISIS in Syria and Iraq and [cause] the radical  reactions that are now being expressed by some of Europe's citizens.

"The close cooperation and [mutual] support between France and Erdogan's government, as well as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and others, in taking some of Europe's extremist Islamists and sending them to [join] groups like ISIS and Jabhat Al-Nusra in Syria and Iraq, can be regarded as the most emblematic  expression of the alliance between Erdogan and the French government. But now, due to conflicting interests in the Mediterranean and Libya, the two [countries, Turkey and France,] have adopted a hostile and competitive attitude towards one another, while using the Islamic sanctities to promote their political and geopolitical aims and objectives.

"Governments, being the major players in the global system, are entitled to use force to control and manage their countries. The governments of France and Germany have a right to fight the so-called threat of extremism. But some of the governments that purport to be Islamic, such as Erdogan's government in Turkey, are trying to use the policy of these European governments to their political and ethnic advantage. The Turkish government's highlighting of the offensive cartoons [published by] Charlie Hebdo,  and Recep Tayyip Erdogan's positions, can be seen as a deceptive new policy meant to provoke the Muslims and the Islamic governments. Erdogan wants to exploit them to his advantage and use them as extras in  his culture war with Europe. 

"Some of the current crisis between and France and Europe and the Islamic world can be attributed to these [European] governments' intervention in Muslim countries and their support of extremist and terrorist currents such as ISIS and its ilk, and to their cooperation with Turkey, which is now coming back to bite the chief makers of this policy in the European countries, as well as Erdogan himself. The boomerang of extremism that France, Germany and others, as well as Erdogan, hurled at great cost towards Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq and other [countries] has now come back to strike these policy makers with precision and to trouble them. 

"In the current global situation, whereby Turkey and Erdogan's government play a major and aggressive role in the violent developments in Nagorno-Karabakh, Syria, Libya and elsewhere, and especially [make] harsh verbal political threats against France, Germany, Holland, Greece and even the U.S., any policy that identifies with and supports Turkey can exacerbate the situation in the region, and can ultimately harm Iran and its strategic interests. The Turkish government has become a catalyst of tension and crisis in the regional and global order. Hence, the Iranian government must sensitively and attentively follow the current developments in the region, especially Erdogan's deceptive games of exacerbating the political, ethnic, religious and ideological tension, and refrain from letting emotion drag it into joining the Turkish government [in this]. Iran is an independent country and has always adopted strong, independent and active positions vis-à-vis events in the region and the world, and it has no need to join with Erdogan's utilitarian government."


[1] Sobh-e Emrooz (Iran), November 10, 2020.

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