The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
With Allies Like These... Turkey Signs Three Trade Deals with Iran

Turkey took significant steps towards improving relations with Iran on Wednesday. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan flew to Tehran to sit down with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in an attempt to ease tensions between the two regional powers and bolster economic ties. Things appear to have gone quite well at that meeting. Reuters reports:

“Our relations with Turkey have entered a new phase and we hope this trend continues. Besides serving the interests of the two countries, we hope our dialogue (with Turkey) serve regional interests as well,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham told reporters in Tehran.

“As two neighbors and Muslim countries, Iran and Turkey enjoy many commonalities and many cooperation opportunities.”[...]

“Today we had a good chance to review bilateral ties,” Erdogan said in remarks translated into Farsi by Iranian television as it showed him meeting Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri.

“I would like to mention specifically, and to express my satisfaction with, the agreement we signed in the preferential trade field,” [Erdogan] said. “It is obvious that we import from Iran crude oil and gas, which are strategic energy sources, and we (will be) able to increase the volume of these imports.”

The Obama Administration didn’t really want this to happen, and went to the trouble of verbalizing its displeasure before the meeting:

U.S. Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen, who visited Turkey just before Erdogan’s Iran trip, warned the Turkish government against any rapid improvement of trade and economic links with the Islamic Republic before a final nuclear agreement is struck, according to Turkish media.

“Businesses interested in engaging in Iran really should hold off. The day may come when Iran is open for business, but the day is not today,” Zaman newspaper quoted Cohen as saying.

Well so much for that.

Is this the product of an ongoing drift in U.S.-Turkey relations? Or are these the wages of what is widely perceived as a rudderless U.S. policy in the Middle East? Probably a healthy dose of both.

Published on January 31, 2014 6:29 pm
  • Andrew Allison

    You don’t suppose, by any chance, that the importation of oil from Iranian Kurdistan by Turkey had anything to do with these Byzantine negotiations? While they point up the impotence of the USA in the Levant, the real question is the impact on Turkish-Israeli relations, i.e., whether Turkey has made a decision or is playing off Iran against Israel. If the former, the odds of an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities have just increased.

  • TommyTwo

    For some reason, I am reminded of the paranoid delusions of the far-right extremist warmongering Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who preposterously and disingenuously claimed that the Iranian nuclear agreement would inevitably lead to a rapid erosion of the sanctions regime.