Turkey’s Iran Strategy

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s charm offensive is set to continue with a visit to Turkey. While Turkey welcomed the interim nuclear deal that Iran concluded with the P5+1 last month, Turkish policymakers remain keenly aware that the deal’s successful conclusion may upend an already-fragile regional balance of power.

ISTANBUL – Following Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s recent visit to the Gulf states, the Islamic Republic’s charm offensive is set to continue with President Hassan Rouhani’s trip to Turkey early next month. Unlike the majority of Iran’s Arab neighbors, Turkey unequivocally welcomed the interim nuclear deal concluded last month between Iran and the P5+1 (the United Nations Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany). But Turkish policymakers are keenly aware that the agreement may upend the Middle East’s fragile balance of power.

From Turkey’s perspective, the nuclear deal, if successfully implemented and made permanent after six months, is set to eliminate a major security concern. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government does not want to be faced with a nuclear Iran, fearing the emergence of an asymmetric power relationship with the Islamic Republic after centuries of balanced ties.

But Turkey also did not want a military intervention in Iran, led by the United States. It was believed that a military strike would create even more problems in terms of regional stability and security. That is why Turkish policymakers have consistently championed a diplomatic solution to the Iranian conundrum, which is what they got with the latest deal.

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