Ankara (GPA) – The aggressive foreign policy of the Trump Regime has pushed allies and enemies alike closer together, now including Turkey and Iran.
The last several decades in the Middle East have shown just how important it is to take in the big picture and really appreciate just the sheer amount of slow-burning crises in the region that now keep the Western defense community up at night. These ‘conflict zones’, while mostly being the result of the United States since World War Two, were long kept in a carefully managed state of equilibrium maintained via chaos caused by the imperial powers to make sure that no single regional power emerged.
This carefully choreographed dance of destruction involved complicated alliances with nations ranging from Israel and Saudi Arabia to Egypt and Turkey, but now, under the leadership of Donald Trump and his tendency to push US adversaries into unenviable corners while at the same time, alienating his own government’s traditional allies. This has left the US isolated from the ‘global community.’
Two cases that can be used as good examples to illustrate both sides of Trump’s aggression towards allies and enemies alike are Turkey and Iran.
The cases of Iran and Turkey highlight the effects of the current US Regime’s general incompetence as well as the President’s public persona as an unapologetic warmonger towards enemies while also seeming to hold the belief that he is the literal manager of nations allied to the US (excluding the particularly brutal countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia). Leaders in the Western power centers like London, Paris, Berlin, and Brussels are clearly displeased with this Trump doctrine, it still seems that the general plan of the European Union (EU) and even – to some extent – the alleged ‘adversarial’ superpower, China, seems to be to sit back and wait for a change of regime in the US.
For some countries though, this idea of “waiting out” the Trump regime has not been an option. This second group of countries includes nations like Iran, which after years of illegal sanctions and aggression by the US finally made some headway with the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2016. While the JCPOA wasn’t perfect, the treaty did guarantee Iran some sanctions relief and began to work towards bringing Tehran back into the global community. Yet now, even these modest gains have been lost following Trump’s decision to abandon the treaty which was then followed by an economic war that has placed Iran under historic levels of sanctions, several waves of US-endorsed protests, and even meetings with exiled Iranian terrorist groups dedicated to toppling the Islamic Revolution.
The negotiation of the JCPOA had basically already demanded almost all of Iran’s trust and goodwill towards the west, the aggression towards Tehran after 2016 was absolutely predictable due to the promise to end the Iran deal was a central piece of Donald Trump’s campaign ramblings. While Trump did allow the JCPOA to live on through a few of the quarterly reviews following his inauguration, the US President would still regularly repeat lies about Iran’s completely fabricated “nuclear arms program” and the “billions in cash” Former-President Obama supposedly “gave” to Tehran. Trump finally did end up removing the US from the JCPOA but it’s unlikely this surprised the majority of Iranians who have spent four decades under the boot of US imperialism with no real reason to assume Washington ever has good intentions.
Yet there is another country, which Trump devoted very little time to thinking of (despite growing concerns about state repression and ambitious foreign policy even under Obama): Turkey.
Despite being a US ally and member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Turkey has undergone rapid shifts in its domestic political landscape since the early 2000s. The US was always happy to use Turkey for their designs in the Middle East, but as time went on and the region became more chaotic, Ankara saw power vacuums forming and opportunities to project Turkish influence. Turkey used this changing landscape to assert a larger role as a regional power – as well as portraying themselves as a leader of the global Islamic community under President Recep Erdogan – as the former power-brokers in the NATO-installed military deep state lost control over Turkish politics.
Both Turkey and Iran have a litany of reasons to distrust the United States, but for years they still have never really publicly allied on any major issues to the extent they are now. In order to better understand how a US ally (and major arms customer) like Turkey ended up deciding to take their long-standing backdoor relationship with Iran public, it is important to understand how both Ankara and Tehran found themselves pinned against a wall by the US and how this led to the current Iran-Turkey relationship to pursue their common goals in the region.
The Slow [Predictable] Disintegration of US-Turkey Relations
The modern republic of Turkey has always had an incredibly complicated relationship with the United States and the other members of NATO. Following World War Two as the Cold War set in, the NATO powers were in a rush to incorporate every nation they could in their alliance against the Warsaw Pact nations of the Soviet Union. Turkey, while not exactly a European nation but rather a sort of historic middle ground between East and West, volunteered to join NATO and serve as a front line of defense against the Soviets.
While it initially may seem puzzling that this country that would never fully be accepted by Europe and was born out of the western powers’ dismantling and redistributing the lands of the Ottoman sultans, the new country of Turkey was instead run by a political class of military veterans who sought to modernize and westernize Turkey. More importantly, though, these veteran founding fathers of the Republic of Turkey were deathly afraid of the seemingly inevitable western spread of Soviet Bolshevism in the years immediately following World War Two. So, instead of making a choice similar to other countries like say, Yugoslavia, to remain non-aligned, the Turks instead readily volunteered to be cannon fodder in the event of World War Three.
Officially, this was the choice made by Turkish leaders at the time but would it surprise you to find out that at least part of the creation of the conditions necessary for influencing Turkey’s move west more likely was the result of overt and overt meddling by the United States intelligence community?
That’s right, even before the fighting of World War Two had stopped, the brave heroes of the United States National Security Council (NSC) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) set about operations to assert US dominance all over Western Europe. This was a result of the conditions after the war when communist parties were at such historic heights it seemed as if they’d take power in several Allied Nations and – according to the US – would bring about an unstoppable spread of communism worldwide.
These activities by the NSC and CIA were enacted as a part of the Truman Doctrine. While most readers likely remember the Truman Doctrine as a benevolent act by the US to give billions of dollars to repair war-torn Europe and Japan and aid the Axis powers’ transitions to democracy, this standard telling in mainstream US history leaves out the glaring details of the security state’s real concerns. The Truman Doctrine did promise economic and political support from Washington but it also offered the much less discussed aspect of “military” support.
This military support came in many forms including rebuilding the armed forces in war-torn allied countries like France, but this support also played a larger and more nefarious role in European politics. This role was carried out via the creation of what is commonly known now as ‘stay-behind networks’ by US intelligence. These “networks” basically amounted to violent right-wing death squads that were used to carry out terror attacks on everyone from civilians to political leaders while also working in tandem with far-right street groups tasked with the creation of an environment so chaotic that the local populations would be clamoring for state repression and the restoration of order. Some of these attacks were claimed by the right-wingers, but often they were also false flag operations to blame leftist groups for senseless violence and inciting panic.
If you know anything about any of these networks, it is most likely in reference to Operation Gladio. The name Gladio refers specifically to the CIA stay-behind networks that operated in Italy after the war but there were more of these same kinds of operations all over Europe. Turkey had its own version of Gladio, deemed Operation Counter-Guerilla.
As a part of Counter-Guerilla, the US and Turkey created the Office of Defense Cooperation in 1947 as a joint command to combat “Bolshevism” in Turkey. The establishment of this new office was negotiated by the US military and intelligence community alongside high-ranking members of the Turkish military. This all happened at a time when Turkey was still being led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the military commander viewed as the founding father of modern Turkey, head of the Turkish state, and founder of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) that would dominate Turkish politics for decades in part thanks to the long-term relationship with US intelligence.
Counter-Guerilla brought together the forces of the US, Ataturk’s military-political class masquerading as elected leaders, as well as a variety of repellent nationalists, extremists, and other right-wing groups such as the notorious Grey Wolves, the violent street fascists loyal the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). This alliance basically ensured the political class of ex-soldiers who rose with Ataturk in the new Turkey would remain entrenched as the rulers of a country they pretended was a modern republic.
Since Turkey was viewed as a key ally in the Cold War, this class of military leaders became the trusted partners of Washington to an extent where the US and Europe wanted the CHP (and mostly the military) to maintain power to a point where they’d gladly look away from any means they used to achieve this. The military and CHP were obviously ecstatic with this carte balance authority to keep power no matter what and used the knowledge that the west would never intervene to put down several democratic movements throughout the years.
The Turkish military proceeded to carry out several coups over the following decades starting with the removal of the Democratic Party in 1960, then the Justice Party via a memo in 1971, followed by the imposition of martial law in 1980 after waves of street violence and disputed elections, and finally in 1997 against the Islamist-leaning Welfare Party. One young member and rising star serving as Mayor of Istanbul for the Welfare Party caught up and sentenced to prison in the ‘97 coup was none other than future Prime Minister and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
All of these coups may have kept the military elites and the CHP in power for decades following World War Two but their stranglehold over politics soon led to internal apathy and rot. This excess and carelessness by the party and military heirs to the legacy of Ataturk had left them complacent at the same time that a new movement was brewing.
It turns out that the coup in 1997 may have removed the Welfare Party but it had not eliminated the growing number of Turks who, while still being aggressively nationalist, were at the same time beginning to go through a sort of religious and historical revival. This was expressed through growing trends like Ottoman revisionism on the part of public figures, like a certain future president, who harkened back to a period of imperial and religious greatness. These factors combined to play a large role in the growing opposition to the militantly secular Turkish state.
This led to the emergence of the new Justice and Development Party (AKP), led by Erdogan. The AKP, while being sort of an ideological relative of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), initially did profess to be more liberal in early campaigns that resulted in a seemingly unending string of victories for increasingly higher positions culminating with Erdogan as Prime Minister and then President under a new executive system making the PM’s office useless.
All of these AKP victories and Erdogan’s survival all these years are impressive but none of this would’ve been possible without the first-hand lessons Erdogan learned about the full power of the Turkish deep-state. These memories of Erdogan’s arrest during Turkey’s last coup that led to swift action by the AKP to totally remake institutions like the military and police to foster loyalty to the state and lessen their influence on politics. It was at this time that Erdogan allied with the now-scapegoat Fethullah Gulen, a cleric with extensive business and political ties as well as thousands upon thousands of members of his FETO organization serving in the Turkish government.
Even before the attempted coup against Erdogan in 2016, there were a series of 2014 purges in the military, police, and judiciary as retribution for investigating possible corruption by Erdogan. The purged officials were replaced with FETO loyalists as well as reintroducing formerly purged commanders that belonged to ultra-nationalist organizations like the Felicity Party (SP). These purges of the military then increased after 2016 after an attempted (or possibly staged) coup against Erdogan led Ankara to blame Gulen for the plot and to expel (alleged) FETO members from government jobs and put in even more compliant commanders and apparatchiks.
This replacement of the Gulenists should have also been recognized as the beginning of trouble brewing between the US and Turkey. Although Gulen had been in self-exile in Pennsylvania for years, his extradition was never one of Turkey’s most pressing issues until 2016. After 2016 however, Erdogan went on a public rampage, constantly railing against Gulen and the refusal by then-President Obama to extradite the cleric. Following the election of Donald Trump though, it did seem Erdogan may have thought he had a better chance at securing the return of Gulen. At one point Erdogan even claimed that Trump was open to extraditing Gulen but this was later denied by the White House. The end result of this is that most Erdogan loyalists remain under the impression that Gulen is actually an asset being protected by the US (which is understandable given the history laid out above), who still holds vast influence in Turkey which justifies the post-2016 purges that carry on to this day.
All of these purges created a totally alien political landscape in Turkey as far as the US was concerned. Erdogan had previously caused scenes condemning Israel and opposing the 2003 Iraq invasion but prior to the purges, the US still seemed confident that Turkey was under their control. Now, with almost every aspect of the Turkish economy, media, military, and every other major sector controlled by Erdogan, Turkey apparently has their own plans for the region and their internal policy that is causing tensions with the US.
The first major cracks in the US-Turkey relationship began to show in the early stages of the war in Syria. As the Arab Spring spread from country to country, the Obama Regime, after toppling Qaddafi in Libya, saw Syria as another chance to illegally overthrow another Arab government.
In the initial stages of the war on Syria, the US worked closely with their traditional allies in the Gulf including the Saudis, the Emiratis, and the Qataris but another key partner was Turkey due to the nation’s shared border with Syria and position as a NATO member. Initially, the Turks worked alongside the Salafist monarchies in helping to facilitate the transfer of US vehicles, cash, weapons, etc. to the rapidly expanding number of extremist militias in Syria including Jabhat al Nusra (the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (the more successful breakaway from Al Qaeda in Iraq).
At this point, the US admittedly helped these groups to flourish and even “allowed them to grow” hoping they would topple the government of Bashar Assad according to Former-Secretary of State John Kerry. However, once ISIS started beheading Americans and other westerners and burned a caged Jordanian pilot alive on video the hot new terror group was no longer a viable candidate to play the role of freedom fighters.
Yet even after the US changed policy and formed the coalition to fight ISIS, Turkey continued to work closely with the group (and basically still does to this day). Turkey didn’t quite get the memo though and instead continued to work with ISIS in ways ranging from diverting Kurdish militias away from combat zones with the extremists to directly facilitating the transportation of stolen Iraqi and Syrian oil north into Turkey to be sent on to European markets as well as the practically free movement of ISIS recruits south into Iraq and Syria.
Turkey’s influence also continued to grow with other jihadist groups fighting in northern Syria, and as more of these groups were moved to Idlib by the Syrian government, Turkey soon became a power broker in the region just due to their geographic location in relation to the fighting. As the Syrian government – backed by Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah – continued to take back territory from these groups, it became harder for the Gulf states and the US to exert as much control as Turkey.
This change made Ankara the de-facto head of the zombified version of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which by the time was just dominated by elements of Al Qaeda following the creations of a series of anti-Damascus coalitions. While these Al Qaeda affiliates had originally been the footsoldiers of the CIA and the Gulf monarchies, this command structure was based on the Gulf states’ ability to communicate with AQ leaders in places like Pakistan. This line of communication became less valuable as more terrorists ended up surrounded and cut off in Idlib, disconnecting them from their higher-ups and leaving Turkey as the only channel for Moscow and Tehran to communicate and negotiate with the Salafists.
As all of this was happening in Syria, there was also a major shift occurring in the Turkish foreign policy establishment which saw Ankara tending to a blossoming friendship with Moscow. Ironically this happened as a result of Turkey shooting down a Russian fighter jet near the border with Syria when NATO made the critical mistake of telling Erdogan he was on his own to deal with the repercussions of the incident. This event actually ended up driving Turkey and Russia closer together and earned Ankhttps://geopoliicsalert.com/israeli-cable-reveals-plot-saudis-iranara (and not the US) a seat at the Syrian peace negotiations in Astana as the voice of the Syrian opposition.
Turkey also shared a common goal with Damascus in that they both realized there is a need to resolve the issue of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a primarily Kurdish-led separatist group that has had US backing in northern Syria for the majority of the war. Turkey dislikes the YPG due to their close ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group deemed terrorists by both Turkey and the US who have the goal of carving out a new Kurdish state in parts of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. While Turkey has been engaged in what is basically a civil war with the PKK in the south of the country for decades, one should also see how the YPG designs for northern Syria – backed by direct US military occupation – could rub Damascus the wrong way.
Russia was also in agreement with Ankara and Damascus that the YPG’s objectives and the US troops occupying resource-rich areas of northern Syria under ‘Kurdish’ control were something that needed to be resolved. This question led to what was essentially a series of agreements born out of necessity between Russia and Turkey for the Turks to make some trade-offs with Moscow in exchange for their shot at the YPG.
This detente quickly resulted in multiple Turkish military operations into northern Syria. The first priority for Turkey was the PKK stronghold of Afrin which was the target of Operation Olive Branch that led to what is essentially an occupation by Turkey with the ‘FSA’ (which now included many ex-ISIS fighters) acting as local authorities. While the United States forces in Syria, located farther east of Afrin in the area around Manbij, refused to step in on behalf of the YPG, Olive Branch still caused tension between Ankara and Washington due to the influx of YPG fighters arriving in Afrin which diverted resources from the fight with ISIS in the east.
Yet even without US intervention, the rift with Turkey continued to widen as Washington refused to stop gifting massive amounts of arms to the YPG, by now known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). US forces also continued to protect the Kurds in certain areas of Syria by blocking any advances by the Turkish military or their proxies which led to several clashes including a firebomb attack on US troops by suspected Turkish proxies. This occurred during another one of Turkey’s attacks on Syria known as Operation Peace Spring which was an operation to clear the YPG from Manbij that ended up putting Turkish troops in close enough contact with US forces that there was some accidental shelling of US facilities. Unlike Afrin, the Manbij region was actually home to these US bases and this showdown eventually led to Trump threatening sanctions so severe they would “destroy” Turkey’s economy.
The obvious end result of these recurring disputes between Turkey and the US was that eventually Erdogan, the incredibly powerful leader of one of the world’s most deeply-nationalist countries, could no longer tolerate these public threats by Trump which the Turkish electorate viewed as insults to their entire nation. In order to stave off these feelings of national embarrassment that could lead to a drastic drop in Erdogan’s support (which is tenuous at best, usually only delivering election wins by small margins even with rampant fraud) and could create an opening for the growing number of opposition parties arrayed against the AKP.
All of this led Erdogan to look to other world leaders for outside support. Vladimir Putin was more than happy to oblige this need seeing a chance to draw Turkey away from the Western powers and the double standards they have applied to Turkey for years. Soon, Russia and Turkey reached multiple agreements including one which established Turkish observation posts around Idlib in an attempt to have the Turks enforce any ceasefire agreements between Damascus and the Turkish proxies. Although these Turkish outposts have been alleged to have become safe havens for the very terrorists the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) after the Turks began the invasion of Idlib, Russia seems to still be committed to upholding the deal both to keep the diplomatic channels to the ‘rebels’ open as well as to draw Turkey closer, eventually leading to things like the decision by Ankara to purchase Russian S-400 missile defense systems.
The decision by Erdogan to purchase these new Russian weapons systems was what apparently ended up being the final straw for Washington. While the US had already hit the Turks with sanctions over the Manbij offensive, Ankara’s attempt to negotiate the release of an imprisoned American pastor in exchange for debt forgiveness, and connections between large Turkish companies and ISIS, it was the S-400 fiasco that clearly demonstrated NATO’s view of Turkey as a mere vassal state to be used as needed.
In light of Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s, the US and other western nations decided to respond by threatening that if Ankara did buy Russian equipment then they’d no longer be entitled to all those cutting edge pieces of NATO technology that we all know and love like the Patriot Missile Defense Systems and its estimated success rate under one percent, or the infamous trillion-dollar F-35 stealth fighter that can’t fly in storms and an ejection system that was designed so poorly it is expected by some analysts that it will kill more pilots than it saves.
Despite most of this equipment being junk, Ankara was still outraged by the cancellation of the delivery of their F-35s from the US despite the fact that Turkey was a partner nation in the collaborative project of creating the new jet. This decision was made by Washington even as Turkish pilots had already arrived at several military bases in the US for training to fly the new fighters.
All of these factors led to Turkey feeling totally shut out by one of their closest historical allies, which could be a bad thing for the US but for Turkey, being disowned by Washington was viewed as a destruction of the barriers restricting Turkish national ambition.
This period in time is what created the conditions for Turkey under the Islamist-influenced AKP and Erdogan to start to try to find their role in the world. Under Erdogan’s leadership during this period of extreme domestic turmoil in Turkey – including the near-collapse of the economy – the plan of action decided on for Turkey was to take what they saw as their rightful place as a regional power and, under Erdogan, leaders of the global Islamic community.
By this time, Turkey had already won the position of major power broker for the various rebel coalitions in Syria, but Turkey still found themselves contending with the Gulf monarchies propped up by endless amounts of oil wealth. Yet this all changed when Saudi Arabia, the unspoken leader of the Gulf nations and head of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) made several key mistakes.
The first mistake made by Riyadh was the decision made after the Saudi royals hosted a state reception for Trump when the House of Saud decided to blame decades of financial support for Salafist terrorism all squarely on Qatar. This resulted in a Saudi ultimatum to Qatar with demands ranging from Doha disbanding the state news network Al Jazeera, the Qataris cutting all ties to the Muslim Brotherhood (a group employed by the Saudis plenty of times in the past), and complete isolation of Iran despite Qatar sharing rights to one of the world’s largest gas fields with Tehran. Once these outrageous demands weren’t met, the Saudis soon began floating ideas of regime change and possible military intervention in Qatar to topple the current Emir according to UAE sources.
Erdogan, being the savvy political operator that he is as well as his AK Party being closely affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood immediately saw a chance to assert a greater Turkish role in this conflict. As the Saudi rhetoric became more extreme and violent, it was Turkey that was one of the few nations to step up to the plate in order to stop Saudi ambitions to bring the entire Arab world in line.
While the Saudis were busy trying to make sure that the majority of Arab countries would fall in line with their leadership, Riyadh also began to cozy up to Israel in an affront to most of the Muslim world. This new relationship between Israel and Saudi Arabia (a country that won’t allow Jews on their soil) was exposed in 2017 when leaked Israeli cables showed the two countries setting aside their differences to focus on the subversion of Iran.
This is where Turkey saw their opening. With most of the Muslim world not being total morons who would fall for the sudden about-face by the Saudis, there was suddenly room for another influential ‘Islamic’ nation to take a leadership role. Turkey filled this spot almost immediately after the GCC split and was offering to send troops and construct new military facilities in Qatar within 24 hours. Turkey also immediately moved to ink a transportation deal with Qatar as well as Iran (who had already been supplying Qatar with emergency foodstuffs since the Saudi blockade), which added to the already fairly cordial relationship between Turkey and Iran.
.The Saudis also made another huge mistake when in late 2018, Saudi operatives – some even connected directly to the crown prince – butchered Washington Post correspondent Jamal Khashoggi. Why the Saudis chose to carry this out in Turkey – one of the most heavily policed and surveilled states in the region post-2016 – remains a mystery but it is clear that the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was one of the worst choices to slaughter a member of the international press.
The Saudis decided to employ the classic tactic of pretending to be total morons, claiming they had no idea what happened to Khashoggi. But Erdogan, being the media-savvy king that he is, was determined to use this opportunity to destroy as much of the image of Saudi civility as possible.
Following the murder of Khashoggi, it should be clear to anyone why Erdogan has managed to obtain and maintain the level of power he has. The man is a smooth media operator and the Khashoggi case was evidence of this as Erdogan deliberately leaked small bits of information on a daily basis to keep the story in the international headlines. Even despite the fact that Turkey is one of the leading nations when it comes to killing or disappearing journalists, it was Erdogan’s personal skill that managed to make Khashoggi the main topic of discussion and keep the focus off inconvenient facts like that Turkey released their owned detained Washington Post reporter as the whole Khashoggi scandal was unfolding.
Excluding Trump, who fully trusted the Saudis to conduct their own internal investigation, much of what was released by Turkey appalled western leaders to a point where Saudi Arabia lost some (although not all) of their influence on the world stage. This may not seem ideal since the most powerful leader on earth is still rejecting the verdict, it is still enough to delegitimize the Saudis and would allow Erdogan to rise to a position of a major influencer in the region. This continues to become more evident as Erdogan expands Turkish influence, not just in Somalia but now also in Libya where Erdogan has pushed repeatedly for military intervention as it has become apparent the Turkish mission in Syria is doomed.
With Idlib basically lost, Turkey now views Libya as the next major battleground to spread Turkish influence abroad and has even been accused of funneling former ISIS and FSA fighters from Syria to Libya to back the Government of National Accord (GNA), including with arms sales which are currently banned by the UN.
This new expansionist neo-Ottoman Turkey under Erdogan didn’t just happen due to this one giant Saudi mistake. Despite being a NATO ally and constantly having their crimes covered by the western press, Turkey has long been working to build an alternate base of power in the Middle East. Although Ankara’s aims may not always be pure and it is likely foolish to place complete trust in AKP promises, Turkey under Erdogan has long sought an independent path and whether you know it or not, it has been in the works for years.
Turkish and Iranian cooperation before Trump
Despite Turkey and Iran always “technically” being on opposite sides of most conflicts (for example, Turkey opposed the ‘03 invasion of their major trading partner and Iranian adversary: Baathist Iraq), the two countries, even if strictly by virtue of being neighbors, have long had a mutually beneficial relationship as the US turned a blind eye to keep their NATO ally’s conduct.
This unspoken agreement didn’t last forever though and soon several Turkish oligarchs came under fire for their involvement in a complicated scam to trade gold for Iranian oil while Tehran was under strict sanctions concerning oil production. This scheme was primarily perpetrated by two Turkish bankers named Reza Zarrab and Mehmet Hakan Atilla.
Zarrab and Atilla were involved in a scheme that created a series of shell companies that took in revenues strictly in Turkish gold and then used this money from fake companies to illegally purchase Iranian oil. Zarrab became a states’ witness shortly after the case went to trial but Atilla ended up serving 32 months in US prison for sanctions evasion although upon his return to Turkey following his sentence he was appointed the CEO of Borsa Istanbul, the Turkish stock exchange equivalent to the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). The Turkish government also made several statements in support of the JCPOA and urged Trump to not withdraw from the historic treaty.
By now, both Turkey and Iran were facing US sanctions leading them to grow even closer together and led to an increased volume of meetings between high-level officials from both countries to discuss more sanctions workarounds. While there are still conflicts between Tehran and Ankara, primarily concerning the end goals for Syria, the simple fact of the two countries’ geographical proximity has basically made some level of cooperation inevitable. As mentioned above, when it came time to challenge Saudi hegemony none of this seemed to matter as both Iran and Turkey were the first ones to respond to the sudden crisis in Qatar, demonstrating a kind of common bond between all three nations.
On top of this, as mentioned above, despite Tehran and Ankara’s differences in Syria, it was still seen as crucial by Iran and Russia to make sure Turkey was a part of the negotiations for the future of Syria.
Turkey and Iran Under Trump
After the election of Donald Trump, the economic war against Iran was immediately turned back on by the new US Regime. As many readers likely remember, it wasn’t long after the inauguration of Trump that the new President decided to exit the JCPOA despite warnings by basically the entire international community. Following this decision, the Trump regime began slapping new sanctions on Iran every single chance they got, in one instance even sanctioning Tehran for a completely legal missile test as part of Iran’s civilian space program following a plan for an economic war against Iran that came straight out of Tel Aviv.
This economic war was also accompanied by other efforts to blame Iran for things including being behind 9/11 (despite overwhelming evidence of Saudi involvement) and for repeatedly violating the JCPOA despite multiple reports by IAEA that Iran was still completely in compliance with the nuclear deal.
Despite these attacks, Iran continued to try to strike new oil deals with countries brave enough to confront the US sanctions. Originally Trump tried to curb this outrage by promising that the lack of oil exported from Iran could more than easily be made up for by the Gulf states. However, countries like Turkey found themselves less capable of importing Gulf oil than Trump assumed due to internal financial conditions.
It is impossible to prove if this means that Turkey kept violating sanctions on Iran even after the Zarrab/Atilla scandal was exposed but soon after Turkey did manage to qualify for a Trump Regime waiver allowing them to continue to do business with Iran. These waivers were initially seen as a blessing to countries like Turkey but this didn’t last long and the Trump Regime revoked the waivers shortly after issuing them angering Turkey.
Beyond just importing Iranian oil though, Turkey has other common concerns with Iran as demonstrated by previous joint operations between Turkey and Iran to put down disturbances in their respective Kurdish territories. This led to a joint effort by Iran and Turkey to target PKK and PJAK which would lay a foundation for future cooperation between the two countries.
Both countries also share an interest in lessening the influence Saudi Arabia has exerted over the Middle East for decades as the preferred US proxy manager. Iran has voiced this reality multiple times with even the Iranian Vice-President clearly stating it was the Saudis behind global terror and Iran was a true force for justice and Islamic unity while the Gulf states were busy cheering Trump as their unconditional ally who would accept and Saudi atrocities
Iran has correctly called out the Saudis for their repeated aggression. This includes Saudi actions from the isolation of Qatar and Iran’s subsequent rapid response to a neighboring country suddenly in deep distress. Beyond that, it is also suspected that the Saudis are very likely responsible for terror attacks inside Iran via their proxy networks,
This growing anti-Saudi sentiment in the Middle East has led to a significant level of desperation in Riyadh, which is in the middle of a massive neoliberal modernization effort. One expression of this anxiety has led the Saudis to turn to Israel as the last remaining ally to help combat Iran. This is even more insulting considering that Iran has been making an effort to make diplomatic overtures to Saudi Arabia but the Kingdom’s growing relationship with Israel has led the Ayatollah to refuse to continue working with any country aiding the Zionist entity.
The New Turkey-Iran Alliance
The seemingly completely free reign given to Saudi Arabia and Israel directly by Trump has not gone unnoticed by Iran and Turkey and rubs both countries the wrong way for some common as well as unique reasons.
Starting with Israel, it should be obvious why Tehran distrusts the Zionist entity seeing as it feels as if there are weekly conferences in Tel Aviv solely focused on policy proposals and discussion ranging from the removal of the Iranian government (on good weeks) to just launching illegal pre-emptive bombing campaigns on whatever Israel deems a military target (these are the bad weeks, clearly). Turkey, for their part, still maintains ties with Israel which even includes some defense and arms sales agreements.
Despite this, due to a system that basically amounts to state control of media inside Turkey and the differences between Erdogan’s rhetoric compared to his actions, Turkish audiences (as well as international audiences) are often bombarded by the Turkish leader making statements as cool as calling Israel terrorists. Statements like these by Erdogan, however, are all part of a balancing act to avoid conflict with Israel – and by extension, the US – while also crafting an image of himself as a true leader of the Ummah.
Regardless of these specific differences Turkey and Iran may have though, it is still clear Israel and the goals of Zionist expansion and supremacy are a threat to the Islamic world. This is one perfect example of Tehran and Ankara’s interests align for the greater good. As I mentioned above, Iran and Turkey both have an interest in stomping out Kurdish separatism but the real concern for both countries when it came specifically to the Syrian Kurds had a lot more to do with the fact that the US had used groups like the YPG to launch an illegal occupation of Syria. Iran, as an ally to Damascus that is under constant assault by the Zionists and the US in Syria, and Turkey, a US ally which has repeatedly been denied a chance to take out the PKK terror group that views Turkey as their main antagonist both came to the same realization: if there is ever to be any agreement on Syria (or Iraq for that matter) the US needs to completely withdraw all troops.
In the case of Saudi Arabia, the facts are a bit more cut and dry as both Turkey and Iran are uncomfortable with not just the growing amount of Saudi business with Israel but the public relations campaign accompanying these efforts. While many Arab nations do business with Israel, Saudi Arabia has a history of initially being one of the most anti-Jewish (not anti-Zionist, let’s make that clear) countries in the Muslim world. Even as Jews are still not allowed to visit Saudi Arabia, Riyadh has very publicly begun acknowledging their alliance with Israel. For this about-face by the Wahhabists, they will receive more access to things like Israeli weapons systems and spy technology. As for what’s in this relationship with Israel, Tel Aviv sees great value in having the “custodians of Mecca” openly support Zionism’s increasing expansion drive which will likely displace tens of thousands more Palestinians. In exchange, it seems the Saudis will basically become the Islam Czars for Israel and be trotted out to offer their approval every time the Zionists announce new settlements or restrictions at al Aqsa (which Israel hopes the Saudis will also administer to legitimize the occupation).
Beyond just the tradition of everyone hating the Saudis and Israel though, there have been more developments in the growing friendship between Turkey and Iran beyond just addressing hostile neighbors purely out of necessity that are beginning to scare some of the world’s villains.
One apparently new outlet of Turkish and Iranian cooperation according to western media is the latest Turkish operations in Iraq: Claw-Eagle and Tiger. These two operations encompass a Turkish air campaign and a subsequent ground assault but according to the US and Israel, the biggest danger to come of this is that Iran is helping Turkey with coordinated artillery barrages against Kurdish positions. Yet this is nothing new as has been repeatedly stated in this piece. Even as recently as late 2017, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Shia militias in Iraq were all opposed to a referendum to establish a Kurdish state. This was unacceptable to basically every country in the region but Israel and the end result was a humiliating loss for the Iraqi Kurds, leading to Iran-allied Iraq to propose an oil pipeline to Turkey specifically to bypass “Kurdish controlled” oil fields in Kirkuk.
While it is still important to note that Baghdad does not approve of these moves by Turkey and Iran, the key takeaway is that Tehran and Ankara are working together at an unprecedented level.
The other recent cause for panic in western intelligence circles is the recent decision by Iran to send forces to Libya to assist Turkey in stabilizing the Government of National Accord (GNA). It is unclear why this is supposed to be so terrifying at first glance when you realize the GNA is the internationally recognized government of Libya which includes the US and EU. The only difference between approaches by countries like the US and Turkey is that the US just doesn’t care about Libya since it’s preferable to them as a failed state than as another competitor in the oil market. Turkey, on the other hand, sees Libya as yet another country to expand its influence.
The GNA is internationally recognized but is still under an arms embargo, even though most watchdogs admit it is basically worthless. Turkey has proven this to be true at this point and has been steadily shipping in fighters from Syria and arms to prop up the GNA and likely played a role in their recent victory in Tripoli over the forces of competing leader Khalifa Haftar.
While international recognition sounds nice, it is no replacement for the supplies sent by Erdogan to help keep the GNA alive which is important to the Turkish President. The GNA may not occupy much thought in most western citizens’ lives but for Erdogan, Libya is part of the greater division occurring creating competing camps in the Middle East.
Besides Turkey, another early backer of the GNA was Qatar, which put the GNA right in the middle of the GCC split and the race for allies by the Qataris and Saudis. This is a part of why Iran is now suddenly becoming so publicly involved with events in Libya and voicing support for Turkey (and by extension Qatar) in their effort to craft a new Libya with policies that will more closely align with the Axis of Resistance.
This fight for Libya is particularly important due to the fact that the GNA has Egypt for a next-door neighbor. Egypt remains slavishly devoted to every edict handed down by Riyadh and the Egyptians are also no fans of Turkey which shows itself in hilarious ways such as when, earlier this year, Egyptian police nearly caused an international incident by arresting several staff members of Turkey’s Anadolu News Agency from their bureau in Cairo.
While that story is kind of funny if you know how bad the Turkish press is, the downside is that incidents like this have led to tensions boiling over in Egypt over their rejection of Turkey, Iran, and Qatar ending up in control of another crucial country in the MENA region. As of this writing, there is serious debate in Egypt on whether they will launch their own military operation into Libya after their support for Hatar’s bid to capture Tripoli was foiled by the Turks. The GNA is also another group closely aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood, making them allies of the exact forces that won majorities in Egypt’s election after the Arab Spring only to have their President Mohamed Mors overthrown in a coup by Saudi, Israeli, and US-allied leader General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Both Turkey and Iran see Sisi’s desperation and know it is an extension of the Zionists and Saudis who fear nothing more than all the countries that think they’re illegitimate or occupying regimes preaching perverted genocidal versions of two out of three Abrahamic religions coming together.
It’s nos surprise Turkey is going around making friends. Turkey doing things like reopening its borders with Iraq and Iran to increase commerce is a sign of a return to a healthier Turkish foreign policy. Prior to the ‘03 Iraq invasion, Iraq was one of Turkey’s closest trading partners and the business Turkey did with Iran to help them evade criminal sanctions was essential. Considering that both Iraq and Iran were under sanctions at these times it also means Turkey was responsible for the preservation of at least some human life.
All of this really adds up to one crucial point; the Middle East is starting to get tired of the endless flow of new Zionist plans for expansion and settlements, as well as they’re tired of the Saudi royal family and their new friendship with the Zionists. After 40 years of the Sauds declaring themselves the only real Muslims, they’re now just making it publicly known that they’d trade off all of Palestine for a couple of those breast cancer awareness fighter jets and a soda stream.
And, of course, who can forget the $8 trillion dollar elephant in the room? The US war on terror will be old enough to drive drunk next year. US troops in Afghanistan weren’t even born on 9/11 and yet they’re still occupying countries with the only quantifiable metrics are how much worse life has gotten and how mand civilians have been killed.
Whether it’s Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, or even Qatar for God’s sake; if these countries that do have genuine differences in long term goals can still agree to solve the more pressing issue of imperialism, right here and now, then more power to them. I realize Qatar and Turkey are still US allies but there are clearly new levels of defiance being reached by incredibly unique leaders like Erdogan or Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah who all agree: Zionism, Wahhabism, US imperialism all have to go.
The US and their colonies of Saudi Arabia and Israel’s leaders all know they are criminals. What is scaring them now is that the more nations are figuring out that, together, they might stand a chance to beat these forces back. None of the members of this strange coalition are perfect, but for now, the goals are the same and the issues these goals address are the main drivers of the destruction of any prospect for a peaceful Middle East. If these countries see a day where they can discuss something other than just atrocities, economic ruin, corruption, and destruction brought on by imperialism, that will likely be a major improvement.