November 2, 2016 Special Dispatch No. 6662

'Kayhan': Tehran Will Not Let Turkish President Erdogan 'Play His Own Solitary Game' In Syria and Iraq

November 2, 2016
Iran, Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 6662

In light of the conflicting interests of Iran and Turkey in the war zones in Syria and Iraq, and in light of the bitter rivalry between the two countries over this issue, the Iranian daily Kayhan, which is close to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, devoted its October 26, 2016 editorial to describing Iran's geopolitical superiority over Turkey, and what it sees as Iran's inevitable victory in the military conflict that will most likely take place between the countries after the Islamic State (ISIS) is defeated in Mosul. The editorial, titled "The Outcomes of Erdogan's Security Dreams," explained that Turkey has no effective strategic depth in countries that neighbor it and that its relations with them are hostile - in contrast to Iran, which enjoys good relations and friendly borders with its own neighbors, and which has a positive influence in those countries.

The daily stated that Turkish President Erdogan has realized that the secret of Iran's success in the region lies in its ideology and in the help it receives from proxies, which it calls "beneficial revolutionary organizations," such as Hizbullah in Lebanon, Islamic Jihad in Gaza, the Badr Force in Iraq, and Ansarullah in Yemen. In an attempt to emulate this success, he tried to use Sunni terrorist organizations such as ISIS in Iraq and Jabhat Al-Nusra in Syria, with their extremist ideology, to gain regional control. But now that Iran has thwarted Erdogan's plans by defeating ISIS, it said, he is trying to minimize the damage by gaining direct control over parts of Syria and Iraq. However, the daily stressed, Iran will not leave Erdogan to "play his own solitary game" in that region, which it considers its own exclusive area of influence.

It should be noted that despite Kayhan's intimidating statements directed at Turkey, associates of Khamenei, among them Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Deghhan and top Khamenei advisor Ali Akbar Velayati, have taken care to clarify that not only has Iran not launched a war against any neighboring state and will not do so,[1] it will even be willing to mediate between Baghdad and Ankara in order to prevent military conflict[2] - because of Iran's fear of a clash with the Sunni world.

The following are excerpts from the Kayhan editorial:[3]

"In an internal session of [his] Justice and Development party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: 'ISIS and Jabhat Al-Nusra can do for us what Hizbullah does for Iran.' The comparison between ISIS and Hizbullah reflects the depth of Erdogan's jealousy of Hizbullah in Lebanon. It also reveals an important and strategic problem faced by Turkey... which lacks a strategic and effective depth in neighboring countries and in the region, compared to Iran.

"Examining Iran's useful ties with its neighbors, [we find that] Iran's land borders are friendly and that its relations with at least two of its neighbors - Russia and Iraq - are on a strategic or near strategic level. There is no [mutual] hostility or threat in Iran's relations with any of its neighbors, including even its second-tier neighbors, namely Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. Iran has friendly relations with them, and with some of them even strategic ties. Furthermore, there is no opposition to Iran's regional might, which stretches uninterrupted from the Gulf of Oman to the Mediterranean Sea.

"No [other] regional power [enjoys] such status. Assessing Turkey and the issues that concern it according to these criteria, we find that great obstacles [are hampering] Turkey's relations with its neighbors in the first and second tier. Most of Turkey's land borders are red [i.e. hostile], and on its other side is a country [Russia] that has become its enemy due to the policies of Turkey's current or previous government. Perhaps it is the magnitude of this vacuum that prompted Turkey to extend its hand in friendship to the most notorious regime in the region, namely Israel.

"Turkey has long been searching for an ally to help it overcome this suffocating problem. When ISIS conquered large swaths of Iraq and found a platform for its ideology and activity, Erdogan thought [ISIS] might serve as an effective rival [of Iran and would] strip Iran of its 'ideological supremacy' and of its weapon of 'leading revolutionary organizations.'

"In internal investigations, the Justice and Development party reached the conclusion that the secret of Iran's success in the region is due to the existence of beneficial revolutionary organizations like Hizbullah [in Lebanon], Islamic Jihad [in Gaza], the Badr [Force in Iraq] and Ansarullah [in Yemen], and that the secret to confronting a regional power [like] Iran is to employ a similar ideology and similar organizations. The Erdogan government and its intelligence apparatuses [therefore] formed effective ties with ISIS in Iraq and Jabhat Al-Nusra in Syria, in a bid to gain strategic regional allies on [Turkey's] southern borders. Erdogan did not take into consideration that Iran has a neutralizing agent for the deadly poison of ISIS and Jabhat Al-Nusra - and, to be honest, neither did anybody else. Erdogan was certain that ISIS's rule would spread throughout western Iraq and eastern Syria, and that the world would be compelled to officially recognize it, if somewhat belatedly. So, in parallel to the Castello road connecting western Turkey to the area controlled by Jabhat Al-Nusra in Syria, Turkey opened a robust route to the area controlled by ISIS in western Iraq, which not only [served] to transport ISIS's oil, but [was also used for] delivering troops, arms and provisions to ISIS.

"However, it was not long before Erdogan discovered the truth. Iran soon repelled ISIS in Iraq and [Jabhat] Al-Nusra in Syria. At the same time, the Muslims' hatred of these groups' ideology and their hatred of groups like ISIS [was a source of] immense pressure on Erdogan. When the repeated terror attacks in Turkey escalated, this pressure was compounded by pressure at home.

"Today, Erdogan's Turkey is thinking only of benefiting from the chaos caused by the spread of terrorism throughout the region, namely of direct intervention. Today Erdogan is like a man who has gambled away all his money and needs some cash to get home. That's why he is fighting tooth and nail to maintain [Turkey's] presence in certain parts of Syria and Iraq. But the same elements that thwarted the ISIS-Turkey plot [i.e., Iran] will not leave him to play his own solitary game [in those areas].

"What is being heard these days, and what is somewhat worrying, is that Erdogan is attempting to get help from America, and that in the name of fighting ISIS and liberating Al-Raqqa, [he is seeking] to deploy his military forces in [Syria's] northern and western Al-Raqqa region, and in the Hasaka and Aleppo provinces, and to gradually make [the Turkish] presence in these areas permanent, based on empty historical pretexts.

"A thing or two must be taken into account in this matter. Erdogan is insisting that the agreement with America not include the Kurdish PYD party, which belongs to Salih Muslim [Muhammad], because America itself cannot bring in ground forces, yet knows that without the Kurds' consent there is no possibility of Turkish success, which is why [America] has proposed a tripartite agreement. However, there is no chance that the Kurds will agree to a tripartite agreement that includes Turkey. Another thing is that [Iran's] 'resistance front' forces fight against [Turkish] invaders, particularly if [the invader] is scheming together with the Great Satan [America].  

"Therefore, it is predicted that the Turkish ground presence in this region will only exacerbate the war - a war that has become semi-classic [sic. - likely meaning that it involves guerrilla elements], which means that the invading side [i.e. Turkey] will suffer more casualties."







[1] Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan made these statements at a conference for military attaches in Tehran. Mehr (Iran), October 31, 2016.

[2] As stated by Iran's Strategic Research Center director and Khamenei advisor Ali Akbar Velayati. Etamaad (Iran), October 30, 2016.

[3] Kayhan (Iran), October 26, 2016.

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