IMESS, ORSAM hold the second Iran-Turkey Dialogue IMESS, ORSAM hold the second Iran-Turkey Dialogue
On January 9, 2016, the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies (IMESS) and the Ankara-based Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM) , with the collaboration of and Iranian Political Science Association (IPSA) held the second Iran-Turkey dialogue on the regional issues in Tehran. In this session, Iranian and Turkish scholars discus...

On January 9, 2016, the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies (IMESS), the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM) in Ankara-Turkey, and the Iranian Political Science Association (IPSA) held a joint seminar on “Iranian and Turkish Perspective on the Regional Developments.” The IMESS resident and visiting fellows, as well as a number of Ph.D. and postgraduate students from different universities in Tehran attended the seminar. From IMESS’ side, Director of IMESS Dr. Kayhan Barzegar, Dr. Ghadir Nasri Head of the Intellectual Trends in the Middle East (one of IMESS’ studies groups), Dr. Abdolrasool Divsallar, a visiting fellow at IMESS and from ORSAM side, President of ORSAM Dr. Şaban Kardaş, and Dr. Emre Erşen from Marmara University exchanged their vi ews on the afore-mentioned subject.
Dr. Kayhan Barzegar: Good evening! Welcome to the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies. My name is Kayhan Barzegar and I am the Director of this Institute. We are going to discuss the recent regional developments especially in the light of two important issues. One is the current rift between Turkey and Russia following the downing of the Russian jet by Turkey and the other is the rift between Iran and Saudi Arabia following the Saudi embassy incident in Tehran. The main question is how these developments have affected the Iran-Turkey relations on the regional issues? To address this issue, we have good speakers from Iran and Turkey. On the Iranian side, Dr. Ghadir Nasri and Mr. Abdolrasoul Divsallar will present the Iranian perspective and on the Turkish side, Dr. Saban Kardaş and Dr. Emre Erşen will present the Turkish perspective. Each speaker will have 5 minutes to raise the points and in the follow up Q & A section we go further. 

But before we go to the presentations, let me start off by categorizing the Iran-Turkey relations in three aspects. First, and the most important one is the bilateral relations. Here, subjects such as regional stability, economic exchanges and integration, and energy connection are of great significance. This is the positive aspect of the relations that we usually center our analyses on it arguing how much increased economic relations could bring stability in the region.  

Second, is the regional aspect which has become significant in the light of regional crises especially in Syria.  In this context, perhaps we can put the relations in the context of the international relations’ theory that is constructivism which deals with “structure” and “agent.” The structure is the political-security architecture and dynamics of the region and agents are the states. So, we are dealing with state-to-state relations in the context of regional dynamics. In recent years, there have been a lot of rivalries to fill the power vacuum in the region. If we put the relations in this context, the main subjects of discussion would the balance of power, regional coalition and rivalry, cooperative security, etc., all of which relate to states’ historical relations and elites perceptions of containing the threats and preserving national interests.  This aspect is very important and we are going to talk about this more today. 

But there is a third aspect of relations and that is the regional relations in the light of great powers’ relations. When we put for instance the Iran-Turkey relations or the Iran-Saudi one in the context of relations with the United States or Russia, the outlooks become rather different. That how regional powers perceive other regional states’ relations with trans-regional powers is important. For instance, it is important for Turkey to know the nature of the Iran-West’s relations after the Iranian nuclear deal given all its geopolitical implications. When it goes to the Turkish-Russian relations, this question may raise for the Turkish analysts that how the Russian military involvement in the Syrian crisis will affect the Iranian-Russian relations? Is it the beginning of a strategic relations or only for tackling the mutual threat in time of insecurity? Understanding this development is of significant for Turkey. This is the same on the Iran’s side.

In recent years, a combination of regional/international relations has influenced the bilateral relations between Iran and Turkey. I think the two nations should be very careful to not letting this happen considering the fact that there are much common interests between these two neighboring countries. Here, perhaps we can add another aspect to the relations and that is “party politics” and that to what extent the Iran-Turkey relations are affected by their domestic politics. For instance, how the AKP conditions in the domestic politics are affecting Turkey’s regional policy and subsequently the relations with Iran? I am sure our friends from Turkey will help us to understand it more. This could be the same on Rouhani’s domestic conditions in Iran. I stop here and ask Dr. Saban to start his presentation.

Dr. Şaban Kardaş: Thank you dear friend Kayhan for giving us this opportunity to address this distinguished audience and exchange views with the Iranian scholars about the regional developments. But before I start, let me also apologize from the audience about the delay. We have been at the Tehran University but because of the heavy traffic which we failed to anticipate we are a bit delayed. I hope you will excuse us. 

So, since you gave us a very limited time to express our own views to kick off the discussion, I will also be brief and brief the outline; the main structure of trends, in the region that are shaping the foreign policy of i regional powers including Iran and Turkey. As you would recall, back in April last year, we were again holding a similar event here. At that time, we again discussed the main parameters of the regional transformation and I think compared to April, right now all of our countries and including the region itself are in a worse situation than before.

 We have to understand this. We have to make this observation to start an analysis of the regional countries and their foreign policy. Why? What is going on in the region that makes things worse day by day? I think we should really understand this structural determinant of the regional actors’ environment; I think this is the security vacuum that has been unfolding and the result is structure instability that is shaping the Middle East for the last couple of years. Since then, we lack, as the regional actors, the conflict resolution mechanisms to provide security for the region, unfortunately there has been a raise to the bottom and every day the security environment is getting worse. In that sense, the foreign policy of Turkey, the foreign policy of Iran are forced to respond to this cycle of insecurity which we have to analyze. 

From a Turkish perspective, I will try to give a couple of reflections and these will be my own. First, why are we going through this period of cycle of insecurity and deepening instability? I think firstly we have to mention that we like authentic regional conflict resolution mechanisms, as I mentioned, and especially the crises in Iraq and Syria which we can discuss later. The inability of the regional actors to address these crises early on led to this cycle of violence and insecurity. As a result, we have been observing that the rivalry among the intra-regional actors, among the regional powers in the Middle East has been on the rise. So, rather than working towards a common framework to address the security vacuum, the regional powers have been engaged in a security competition. This is what is driving - I think - the insecurity. Although some actors and some commentators do claim that there are historic roots of the current conflicts; there are identity-based issues such as sectarian or ethnic such as Arab versus Kurdish dimensions of the current conflicts. I think it is more structural. We cannot just look at history and identity to understand the current rivalry among the regional powers. So, it is mostly strategic rivalry which we need to understand. 

The other dimension, which is important from my perspective and I think it is also from the Turkish perspective, is the increasing involvement of some new extra-regional powers versus growing disinterest of some other extra-regional powers. More specifically, traditionally in the Middle East, we know that extra-regional powers especially the western powers and the United States used to provide security. They were acting as the stabilizers in the regional system but increasingly they are less interested in playing that role but new actors are more eager to get involved in the Middle East such as Russia. So, this is also changing the parameters of the game. This is also changing the power balance in the Middle East. I think taking together all these developments do suggest that in the Middle East in addition to unresolved conflicts, there is also a major power transition happening and we know from security studies, from international relations literature that when there is power transition, uncertainty is high and when there is high uncertainty, the risk of conflict is high. I think this is the main structural determinant of the current foreign policy of Turkey and Iran and we see the implications in the case of Iraq, in the case of Syria. I do not go into details in each case but again if you have any questions about the Syrian policy of Turkey and the Iraqi policy of Turkey, I will be more than happy to welcome. But the structural power transition triggers uncertainty and uncertainty raising the risks. This is what is shaping.
Here, another determinant of the new environment and the power shift paradigm is the new Iran-western deal on the nuclear issue and this has also added in a way to increase uncertainty in the region. Initially, as you would also recall, Turkey unlike other neighbors of Iran was supportive of the nuclear deal because from the Turkish perspective, the nuclear deal would have led to better communication, coordination and engagement and exchange between Iran and its neighbors, Iran and the region. But unfortunately so far the implication of the Iran deal rather than reducing uncertainty has been to increase uncertainty and it has ignited the fear of certain regional actors. Here we do not need to go into a blame game whether Iran might have acted in a different game but to reduce the uncertainty on the part of the others but still at the end of the day, we see that Iranian nuclear deal added to the already complex picture in the Middle East and as a result, we see a kind of security dilemma unfolding between Iran and certain regional powers. 

So, from a Turkish perspective, it faces two-faced conundrum, so to speak. This is where I will briefly mention and stop. On the one hand, Turkey is a part of the region and as a result, Turkey is also a part of the same patterns of rivalry, patterns of enmity and Turkey is also feeding to some extent the same negative environment in the Middle East. But on the other hand, compared to the other actors that are part of the security dilemma, meaning Iran and Saudi Arabia, Turkey is a little bit distanced. Turkey is a little bit outside. So, Turkey can treat it as a foreign policy issue as an external actor. 

Compared to Iran, Turkey has this luxury. I think this is where we need to understand the western dimension of Turkish foreign policy, the western identity of Turkey, and it provides Turkey with some leverage to manage the oncoming and ongoing competition and rivalry in the Middle East. But then the western identity and the western connection of Turkey is also coming under pressure in the new environment because Turkey also feels that there is a big pull force that is dragging Turkey into the regional affairs. Compared to 10 years ago, 20 years ago, Turkey is more and more involved in the Middle East but then the big challenge for Turkey in the coming years I think will be to frame its involvement in the Middle East more in realist terms rather than identity-based terms. 

To put it more specifically, the big challenge for Turkey in the coming phase is to avoid the sectarian trap and continue to act vis-à-vis Iran, vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia based on realistic power balancing considerations and this will be the big test but we can expand on that topic later. 

Dr. Kayhan Barzegar: Thanks Dr. Kardaş. I think you touched important points. The next speaker is Dr. Nasri. He is from Kharazmi University and his major expertise is on Iraq and Kurdish issues. Dr. Nasri, you have 5 minutes. 

Dr. Ghadir Nasri: Thank you Dr. Barzegar and our guests. I am Ghadir Nasri, the head of intellectual trends study group at this Institute. Dr. Kardaş used the important concept of insecurity. This is very important for my discussion. But I prefer to present my contents as three comments with critical considerations about the recent developments in the Middle East. If you look at the map of the Middle East, what do you see in this map? Crises, refugees, domestic wars and disintegration; disintegration in Turkey and Iraq, waves of refugees in Syria and the Palestinian territories. Why? I want to ask about the reasons of this situation and this tragedy. 

I think there are three parts or analyses about the origins of this situation. First of all, I think the origin of the situation is stopping and staying of the Middle Eastern countries in the past. What is the past? The past is the Cold War; the past is the ideology of identity or II; the past is arms race between Iran and Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel. Stopping in the past is very dangerous for now. As you have seen, in the Middle Eastern countries the past is very important then, now and future. The origins of this situation in the misconceives of the political elites in these countries especially Turkey’s misunderstanding the origins and logic of developments is very important especially in Syria and Iraq. 

The second point is the clash among the regional powers in the Middle East. As you have seen, the crises are not between Bahrain and Emirates, Qatar and Cyprus or Lebanon. The crises have occurred between Iran and Turkey, Iran and Israel, Egypt and Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia. As you know, the conclusion of the situation is threat, threat for people, threat for the academics, and threat for the security order in the Middle East. I think the greatest and the strongest winner of these developments is Israel. Israel is the winner in this region which used the disintegration about these countries especially the contesting between Iran and Turkey. 

The third point is related to the reformation of the new order in the security of the region and the foundation of the real actors such as ISIS, KRG and PKK. These are very important actors in the security of the Middle East. Why? I think the fail and the weakness of the states especially the central states in the Middle East is a new element in the analyzing of this tragedy. The weakness of the state in Syria, the weakness of the state in Baghdad and the sanctions against Iran are all opportunities for ISIS. 

The conclusion of this situation is the increase of terrorism in the Middle East. Terrorism in the Middle East is the strongest actor for now and the future of developments. So, the conclusion has three parts: the reformation in the security order and the reformation in the Sykes Picot system in the Middle East, the increase of non-state actors against the security and the lack of capability for the economic cooperation. 

Dr. Kayhan Barzegar: Thank you Dr. Nasri. Our third speaker is Dr. Emre Erşen from Marmara University. You also have 5 minutes or so.

Dr. Emre Erşen: Thank you very much for being here and listening to this conference today. I will try to elaborate a bit more about Russia’s position regarding the Middle East and especially what is going on in Syria. Since we do not have much time, I will try to just elaborate on the general overview of the Russian strategy in the Middle East and how it influences the relationship between Turkey and Iran in general and the regional dynamics overall. 

I think it was one of the most important developments of the foreign policy agenda 2015 that Russia directly and militarily intervened in Syria and it has actually completely changed the regional balance there. But it definitely has a more important meaning for Turkey because on 24 of November, Turkey shot down a Russian military jet because it was violating the Turkish airspace and ever since the Turkish-Russian relations have been deteriorating very rapidly and very sharply. Currently we are in a crisis in our relations with Russia which is actually surprising to an extend because throughout the 2000s, the Turkish-Russian relationship was very strong. We had very good economic relations. Many people claimed that this was actually evolving into a strategic partnership especially in terms of energy relations and etc. 

So, it was unexpected but I think this shows us how the Syrian issue became so important for both countries that it finally turned into a direct clash between Turkey and Russia. For Turkey, I think the reasons are understandable because for Turkey whatever happens in Syria is definitely very important because we have our longest border with Syria. So, with the refugee crisis and the security threats emanating from Syria, it is pretty clear that whatever happens in Syria directly concerns Turkey. 

But why is Russia interested in Syria? Why did all this happen in 2015? I think this is due to a number of reasons and I think the most important one is the global rivalry between the United States and Russia overall. I think Russia used the Syrian case as a very successful instrument to convince the world public opinion that actually it has to be treated as a great power; especially if you take a look at Putin’s third period as a president in his campaign, it is all about remaining as a great power and in order to do that I think they used the United States reluctance to do something about Syria very well and they entered the scene directly and militarily. So, they are filling in vacuum geopolitically in a way. If you just keep in mind for example that throughout the 2000s, Russia was most of the time on the losing side. When you take a look at the NATO enlargement for example, NATO enlarged to Russia’s own borders and I think that was why it actually reacted in Ukraine in 2014 but also before that in Georgia in 2008. 

So, there are redlines in Russia’s foreign policy and the former Soviet space was one of those redlines but that redline was violated by the West. This is how Russia perceives the situation. I believe, and just keep in mind for example last year, the most important political foreign policy item was Ukraine and Crimea. Today nobody is talking about those anymore because they need Russia in Syria; they need to accommodate Russia and I think one of the main reasons why Russia is in Syria right now is due to that reason. 

Secondly, I think very obviously Russia has regional interests in Syria. The Assad government was already enjoying a very good relationship with Moscow throughout the 2000s economically, politically, militarily and etc. We are talking about the Tartus Naval Base for example which is a very important base for Russia because it is its only base in the Mediterranean. It was actually built back in 1970s during the Soviet period. So, that gives us an idea about the strength of the relationship between Russia and Syria overall. But definitely Syria is very important because it provides strategic outlet to Russia to the Mediterranean Sea and especially the east Mediterranean region. Currently, we are talking about the natural gas reserves and etc. That is why I think Russia is also trying to keep its presence there. 

I think Russia also tried to use the post-nuclear deal situation in a way to come up with sort of strategic axis in the region because currently their interests with Iran regarding Syria converge and I think Russia is trying to use this in order to create a new strategic reality in the region by using this new regional framework. 

Last but not least, Russia has domestic concerns. If you take a look at Russia’s position, domestically there are many important political and economic problems. Last year, the Russian economy shrank 4 percent. Fifty percent of their incomes actually are based on oil and natural gas. So, Russia also is economically in a serious situation. So, they actually used this in order to divert the attention to foreign policy. I mean, they desperately needed a foreign policy victory and whenever they have serious problems at home back in 2008 in Georgia, in 2014 in Ukraine and lately in Syria, we expect something to happen in Russian foreign policy in that regard. Also, we have the terrorist dimension which definitely concerns Russia because they believe that over 2000 militants from Russia are currently fighting in Syria. So, they are concerned that these fighters might come back Russia and create a problem for the Russian politics because Russia is also having some troubles regarding Chechnya and the Caucuses region and etc. 

So, basically these are the Russian concerns. That is why Syria became so important and I think here they made a strategic calculation. On the one hand, they had this working relationship with Turkey. They were agreeing to disagree with regard to Syria but they had this economic relationship; they were building Turkey’s nuclear power plant. Fifty five percent of the Turkish natural gas is coming from Russia which are really good things. But I think on the other hand they actually saw the potential in the Syrian conflict and I think they saw this more important and more rewarding for Russian foreign policy in the long term and they decided to escalate the crisis because when you take a look at the statements from Turkey and from Russia, in my opinion, Russia is trying to escalate the crisis purposefully, no matter if the Turkish leaders are trying to calm down the situation. The Russian rhetoric towards Turkey is very harsh and that is going on in that way. They brought their own S-400 systems to Syria which virtually closed the airspace not only to Turkish aircraft but to the western aircraft as well. So, basically this is the case. 

A few words about the Turkish-Iranian thing and what we can do about it. I mean definitely Turkey is very unhappy about what is going on with Russia because this was believed to be a strategic partnership and it does not want to lose Russia definitely. So, out of this I think equation, maybe Iran can play a meaningful role because Iran was one of the countries which proposed mediation between Russia and Turkey and Iran is capable of doing that because it has a working relationship with Russia and although there are disagreements, it also has a close relationship with Turkey. 

We also have to keep in mind that in Vienna, for example, regarding the solution of the Syrian problem, Turkey, Iran and Russia were very important actors at the table. So, without their cooperation, we won’t be seeing a final solution in Syria. It is very important that they work together and we also probably have to keep in mind that we talked about the convergence of interests between Iran and Russia regarding Syria but that relationship is not really very smooth either. They have differences. For example, Russia has a close relationship with Israel politically and economically, also with Saudi Arabia and most importantly for example if you listen to the Russian spokespersons and what they say about the future of Assad, I think they can and they are capable of negotiating a separate deal with the western countries where we do not have any Assad in Syria’s future. That might also be against Iran’s advantage. 

So, I think overall all these countries should work together in order to overcome this crisis. Thank you. 

Dr. Kayhan Barzegar: I thought this was also very useful. Thanks Dr. Erşen for sticking with the time. Now that we have heard the Turkish perspective of the Russian involvement in Syria, we have Dr. Divsallar, a fellow at this Institute, who would also talk about the Iranian perspective on the Russian presence in the region and the aims behind it. But at some point, our Turkish colleagues should come back again and let us know to understand why Turkey really downed the Russian jet as I think this is very important for our audience to know from Turkish scholars. 

Dr. Abdolrasool Divsallar: Thank you! First, let me welcome our respected guests from Turkey and our colleagues here. I would like to say that I’m quite hopeful that these kinds of discussions we have here today will bring us a far better understanding of the crucial issues unfolding in the region between Iran and Turkey. 

Most of us would agree that Iran and Turkey’s relations are based on sort of strategic rivalry that has historical roots. Although the two countries have strategic-economic interests and historical commonalities, but there have always been strategic rivalry formed by “strategic containment model” in the Iran-Turkey relations. What I mean by strategic containment model is that the two neighbors because of their geopolitical limits need to form a sort of controlled rivalry hence a “crisis containment model” has been implemented between that push them towards a limited and controlled rivalry. However, far from the very optimistic point of views that my colleagues from Turkish side put on the table, I think currently Iran and Turkey’s relation is on the course of a more severe strategic rivalry because of a pattern which I call the “polarization of the regional powers.” 

Entrance of Russia into the Middle East is coincided with the introduction of the U.S. new “offshore balancing strategy” means a lot for the balance of power in the region. What I mean by offshore balancing strategy introduced by the U.S. is the strategy of more collaboration with the regional power and less direct involvement. In the meantime, Russia has introduced its Middle Eastern strategy which is based on more direct influence. Different interests of U.S. and Russia combined with conflicting interests of regional power such as Iran, Turkey and Saudi’s is slowly resulting  in a formation of  two separate blocs with different and indeed opposite interests. Turkey is moving toward a coalition with Sunni bloc of the Middle Eastern countries. Sunni bloc is simply comprised of Saudi Arabia, Emirates and other Arab states that share a common understanding and interests in regions major crisis such as Syria. While U.S. shares huge interests with these countries but at the same time suffer a serious disagreement with them. 

On the other side, the Iranians made a coalition with Russians which is based on strategic understanding and strategic interests of the both sides. This bloc also includes Iraq, Syria and other non-state actors such as Hezbollah and other Shia groups. Means that weather we like it or not the two blocs are shaping around the Middle East and perhaps are on the collision course. This is the way that Iranians see the current movements. 

I also believe that this is a path for shaping a new “power transition model” in the region; the Middle East is on the verge of “a power dynamic” or emergence of “a new power system” .Entrance of Russia into the Middle East leads Turkey to move towards the Arab states more seriously and after the downing of the Russian jet by Turks, this movement of Turks towards the Arabs speeds up and became more vivid and crystal clear from the Iranian side. 

Just go back and see President Erdogan’s comments after the Iranian and Saudi’s sour relations last week, i.e. the issue of embassy that happened. Iranian understanding is that President Erdogan’s backing of Saudi is a sign that the mentioned bloc is real. On the opposite site of that bloc is the Russian-Iranian bloc. But what do these blocs have in hand? But before going to that question let’s see how these blocs are being used. Iranians are using the Russian card in order to control the Turks, and maybe Turks are using the Saudi card in order to control and contain Iran. 

 This is the “polarization of regional powers” and collision path of these blocs that is not in the benefit of none of these countries. Of course, the Iranian-Russian coalition has multiple cards in hand. The most crucial security card that they have in hand for sure is their “Kurdish policy.” So, imagine a kind of a shared Kurdish policy between Iran and Russia. 

I think the other card is Russian-Iranian shared economic policy.  After lifting of sanctions against Iran economic multilateralism is a major Iranian policy, means new avenues will open for Iran’s economy. Therefore, economic divergence among Iranian economic partners decreases Iranian dependency as it was during the sanction times and will bring more freedom of action for Iran. In the meantime Russian economic sanction on Turkey brings Iran as a serious economic substitute and Iranian are planning to benefit as much they can from Russian ban on imports from Turkey.

The other card that Iran is thinking about is the proper usage from US policy of “offshore balancing strategy”. The core understanding of this strategy aims to bring regional powers into play or collaborate with them and this automatically weakens and challenges Saudi-Turkish bloc. The new collaborations of Americans with regional powers means that backing of Americans for Saudi-Turkish bloc, in spite of their NATO membrane and many other constitutional issues, is not that strong that both Turks and Saudis thought at first. However, the security understanding and the security dialogue currently established between Iran and Russia looks to be more effective and enduring. 

But the final card in Iranian hand is its central Asian more coordinated policy with Russia that give Iran an upper hand and much freedom of action on that region. Historically there has been a competition between Iran and Turkey in Central Asia and Caucasus. Indeed, it seems that the easing of relations between Russia and Iran will help Iran at least to some extent to have more freedom of action in Central Asia and the Caucasus.  

But what I mean by all these cards is that, both Iranians and Turks, are going through trend of polarization in Middle East. As I said, whether we agree it or not, that is a trend. I think what we, the scholars, can do is that - the common recommendation for policy making - we can give a new understanding that using of cards, the Turkish use of the Saudi card and the Iranian use of the Russian card is not constructive in the Turkish-Iranian relationship. So, the structure of divide that we see during the last months between Iranians and the Turks is not in the benefit of each side. So, it seems that a new understanding and a new attitude regarding the bilateral relations need to be put on the table. Thank you.  

Dr. Kayhan Barzegar: Thanks! This was another aspect of strategic power politics that Mr. Divsallar mentioned about this card playing. Now, we continue with our Iranian-Turkish dialogue by asking our Iranian and Turkish scholars present at this session to make some comments and then we go to the floor for the general questions and answers. 

But before we go to that direction, let me make one short comment and that is about the triangle of Iran-Turkey-Russian relations. From my own perspective, it is true that battling Daesh has somehow put the Iran-Russian relations in a more strategic context. But still we should at the same time think that this is only the beginning of the kind of relations that is new for Iran. I am saying this to say that the Iran-Turkey relations have its own traditional place in Iranian foreign policy. At the end of the day, no regional power will be happy of bringing a super military power to its own region. Perhaps, Iran is happy with the Russian presence in Syria because it is changing the field equations in favor of Iran that is true. But at the same time, there are some other aims for Iranian foreign policy to somehow contain the Russian intense involvement in the region in a broader context, in Iraq, in Syria and other places. My point is that at the end of the day, the Iran-Turkey relations will have its own traditional context and it is not going to change deeply. Regional powers tend to establish cooperative relations with their counterpart regional power. I think this rule is true in the Iran-Turkey relations somehow, as none of them would be happy of superpowers’ increased influence in the region which could be at their expenses. I hope Şaban you can explain this further that how much the Russian-Turkish rift is going to somehow impact Iranian-Turkish relations and of course we expect that other Turkish friends also get involved and answer this question that how the current Iran-Saudi rift can affect the Turkey-Iran relations, because we are in the Iranian Turkish dialogue. Now let’s get some comments from our Iranian and Turkish scholars on the floor. As a matter of hosting, we take the Turkish  perspectives first. 

Comment (From Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies-ORSAM): First of all, thank you for organizing this panel. It is very fruitful. I want to talk about the differences or strategic rivalry between Turkey and Iran which was pointed to it. Actually, there are no structural differences or structural divergence between Turkey and Iran. Actually structural reasons and geopolitical reasons force both countries to work together. We have no historical disagreements, territorial disagreements or population disagreements. So, it is very good for Turkish-Iranian relations. In the last decade, we had healthy relations with the sake of rationalization of relations. We get out ideology from our bilateral relations and we focused on departmentalization of relations. Rather than conflicting points and rather than regional differences, we need to focus on enforcing our relations and it was Turkey’s and Iranian strategy to develop bilateral relations. Unfortunately, since the last decade, there has been a growing rivalry inside the region between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Turkey is not heading a Sunni bloc. What we are witnessing is Saudi Arabia trying to drag Turkey to this competition. Turkey is trying to be balanced between the two and stand between the two bloc and Turkey trying to develop its relations both with Saudi Arabia and Iran. It is not preferring to either side.  

Dr. Kayhan Barzegar: Thank you Dr. Bayram Sinkaya for your positive words. Let’s get an Iranian view. Dr. Jafar Haghpanah from Tehran University, please.

Comment (From the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies-IMESS): Thank you very much! Usually when we talk about regional security issues in the Middle East, we use some realistic approaches or recently constructivism (structure-agent approach). Of course, they are useful but I think realism explains about what the superpowers and global powers are doing here and constructivism explains what the non-state actors do here. But about the regional powers like Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, I want to use another term; it seems that most of them use somehow ‘desperate policy’ [ a kind of policy based on anger and disappointment] for the threats; they pursue some emotional policies here. Unfortunately, they have just concentrated on the short-term period of the threats because of the lack of the communication between them. I think maybe some cues mentioned by Dr. Kardaş can explain these issues better than the other concepts. This is very important.  

Dr. Kayhan Barzegar: Now a Turkish view.

Comment (From Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies-ORSAM): Thank you! It is an honor for me to talk here. I am a political economist. In economy, when we call something a card, we mean a tool that is going to be beneficial and alternative for us. I am really having a hard time how Russia can be a card for Iran. Are we imagining that Russia is going to wage a war against Turkey, a NATO member? I really have a hard time understanding it. But from economic point of view, Iran’s biggest export partner is China with 30 percent of its exports. The second partner is India with about 12 percent and the third partner is Turkey. I do really believe China, as we all know, is having huge economic problems. During the last week, two times they had to cancel transactions in the capital markets and together with China’s economic downturn, most probably Asia will follow it. As we remember, during the sanctions, Turkey was a big help and stood by Iran. We are neighbors and as we all know, we do not choose our neighbors. There are two real economies in this region. One, is Turkey and the other is Iran; economic integration and economic cooperation between these two countries will benefit not only these two countries but the region. But to have good economic relations, we need to have good political relations. To have good political relations, we need to have good dialogue. Thank you.

Dr. Kayhan Barzegar: Thank you very much. An Iranian perspective please? But be short please.

Comment/Question: My name is Behzad Ahmadi, a visiting fellow at this Institute. I have a comment and a question. Dr. Kardaş mentioned western connection as a very special aspect and a privilege of Turkish policy which puts Turkey in a position that it can balance its relation with Iran and Saudi Arabia. But in recent years, Turkey is pretending to be a soft-power and based on it, persuading the zero problems with its neighbors. But nowadays the real scene is different and we have a Turkey, which is part of the sectarian tensions caused by Saudi Arabia and in the Saudi bloc. Turkey built a strategic cooperation council with Saudi Arabia and as Prime Minister Davutoğlu said, is favorably part of a military coalition against terrorism which ironically consists of Salafi Wahhabis and it is more a Sunni Arab bloc openly claiming to balance Iran in the region. As a result, although Turkey does not openly antagonize Iran but as Dr. Divsallar said, it is trying to contain and balance Iran. Dr. Kardaş, how Turkey have let Saudi Arabia to become the leader and the representative of Sunni world? And how Turkey instead of using its privilege to play a constructive role in the region is a part of a fake coalition consists of the most oppressive regime in the world? 

Dr. Kayhan Barzegar: Ok. We have another half an hour to go. Still we can listen to another view.
Question: My name is Seyed Mahdi Nabavi, a Ph.D. student of regional studies from the University of Tehran and a research fellow at this Institute. Let me start from the point regarding the domestic politics and the foreign policy of the country that Dr. Barzegar said at the beginning. When the AK Party came to power in 2002, it announced the “policy of zero problems with its neighbors” and tried to make its relations better with Iran, Syria and Iraq as its Middle Eastern neighbors. But in the light of Arab Spring, that policy has changed to “zero neighbors without problems.” So, what is the reason of this strategic change in Turkish interests? And is there any outlook in the Turkish government to reactivate this policy and to maybe become really helpful to solving state by state and regional problems? My second question is about the double standard of some Turkish behaviors in the region. For example, we can see shooting down of the Russian fighter jet mentioned that it violated the Turkish airspace but on the other hand, we can see Turkey militarily intervened and deployed its military forces in Iraq. I think this is a double standard. Could you comment on that.

Dr. Kayhan Barzegar: Ok! Next question. 

Comment/Question: Good evening everybody. My name is Mahdokht Zakeri. I am a Ph.D. Candidate of International Relations in the Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU) and visiting research fellow at this Institute. I have a question and a comment if it is possible. First, my comment is regarding what Dr. Kardaş said about the realism or neo-realism approach to analyze the Middle East issues that he insisted on security dilemma, balance of power, strategic or security vacuum. It seems that specifically regarding the recent tensions in the Middle East for example between Iran and Saudi Arabia or in Syria, there is an another approach. It seems that still identity-based issues are quite important and I think we need a more comprehensive approach to analyze the Middle East issues. And, my question is about a debate that exists for the future of Syria. Some western countries advocated a coalition government in Syria, with or without Assad in the future. There are just Turkey and Saudi Arabia supporting a government without Assad in the future. How do you assess this issue? Is there probably any relation with the anti-Kurdish policy of Turkey? 

Comment: Good evening! My name is Hossein Mofidi, a research fellow at this Institute. I think there is an important question that we should answer and that is a possible strategic coalition between Saudi Arabia and Turkey. I think it is not possible because of two important matters. As Dr. Barzegar said, the domestic politics is very important in decision making. We know that differences between Turkey and Saudi Arabia mostly result from the different interpretations of Islam: the sophist and secular tradition in Turkey and Salafi interpretation of Islam in Saudi Arabia. Another important matter is that Turkey and Saudi Arabia like Iran are important representatives of government models in this region. I think the government’s model of Turkey is really different from that of Saudi Arabia. I wanted also to know our Turkish friends’ views. 

 Dr. Kayhan Barzegar: Now, we stop and ask Dr. Şaban and Dr. Emre to respond the questions. 

Dr. Şaban Kardaş: Actually, our friend already gave the answer. These were just two reasons why such a coalition might be hard to form. But I personally am more of a realist and I approach the issue more from a realist perspective and my answer is also no. I mean firstly this morning we had a meeting at the foreign ministry. Somebody used the term fast food analysis. We should be careful about fast food analysis. We should not jump into conclusion so easily.
Right now, there is different convergence of policy priorities between different actors but can we really talk about two different blocs forming in the true meaning of the term bloc and axis, sometimes you used that, and alliance? Because these are really important subjects we should be careful about. Let’s go with the example of the so-called Islamic coalition proposed by Saudi Arabia. As you may have followed, they announced something and many countries said that they were not informed properly or they were not informed but their names were on the list. Turkey did say he will support it on the condition that it is seen as a broad platform to express a stance against terrorism which is understandable and as a matter of fact, Saudi Arabia has been part of the anti-Daesh coalition formed by the United States and western allies and Turkey was also part of the same and then on the issue of platform to fight terrorism, yes. But when we moved to the conclusion that it is a beginning of a coalition which is a more serious term, I do not think Turkey is up to it and clearly the statement from the Turkish ministry of foreign affairs underlined that we are not part of any military organization. So, this is more of a statement of common position against terrorism. 

And, the other point about one of our colleagues said that Saudi Arabia is acting like the leader of the Islamic world. I do not think this would be the right way to define it. From a Turkish perspective, I do not think Turkey would approach Saudi Arabia as the leader or representative of the Islamic world. This might be the way some Iranian friends maybe read it but from the Turkish perspective, I do not think any country has the right to position itself as the leader of the Islamic world or speak on behalf of the Islamic world. There are a couple of international organizations. OIC is one of them and as you may follow, in April this year there will be a summit of OIC in Istanbul hosted by Turkey. We can only speak on behalf of the Islamic world at such common platforms and again from a Turkish point of view, I do not think we are seeing the Saudi position as the expression of any leadership role in the Islamic world. 

And, then about the double standards which was also mentioned, the shooting down of the Russian jet versus Turkish policy in Iraq, I mean these are sometimes we tend to compare different cases or issues but in my understanding, these are like apples and oranges to some extent because Turkey did declare its rules of engagement about the violation of its airspace on the Syria border. You may have said that in the Black Sea from time to time the Russian jets also violated Turkish airspace but we do not down them. On the agency from time to time, the Turkish jets violate the Greek airspace and the Greeks do the same. In this particular occasion, there is a particular background, there are rules of engagement established since 2012.

 Since the start of the Russian operations in late September, Turkey did communicate clearly to the Russian military authorities politically, strategically and militarily that violation will lead in such a result. So, in this case, it is an enforcement of a very clearly defined and communicated policy. The issue about the Turkish policy in Iraq is a different issue. I believe you are referring to the recent discussions about the Bashiqa camp and the Turkish soldiers there. So, that camp was established by the invitation of the Iraqi defense ministry, Iraqi government and the Iraqi defense minister himself visited it in late November and there are other camps in different parts of Iraq where Turkey is providing training. This is a different issue. But the reason why there was a discussion, it is also possible to discuss. Maybe, we can discuss it later if you want. But it is not similar to the Russian incident.
The other question about the transition government in Syria with or without Assad, this was also a part of the discussions and from time to time, we discuss it at different platforms. So, actually the transition government was an idea that came into circulation in 2012 with the Geneva one framework and in 2014 the Geneva two reaffirmed it. So in this sense, the idea is internationally recognized. This is perhaps one of the only ways to end the crisis in Syria but the question is how and under what conditions that framework will be implemented. And, then about the role of Assad, I mean the Turkish position has been clear. Assad will not be replaced at the end of the process but the discussion about whether Assad might be in power during the process and Turkey said and even the president himself said that that option is on the table but it has to be decided by the Syrians themselves and in the Riyadh communiqué in December, this was also settled.    

Dr. Kayhan Barzegar: Ok, but at some point, you might want to explain why Turkish position at least changed regarding President Assad’s staying in power because from time to time, as you say, from the beginning Turkey was saying that Assad must go. Now, the equation is somehow changing and it is positive, I think, because it leads to come out of the current stalemate in Syria at least. 

Dr. Emre Erşen: Well, first of all, about this downing of the Russian jet thing maybe a few words on that. It is clear that Turkey actually has been warning the Russians about this incursions. It was not the first time. Turkey has been warning Russia since late September about these incursions and the Russians, I am sure, were aware about the unhappiness of the Turkish authorities. But I think they wanted to give a clear message to NATO as well deliberately violating the Turkish airspace because we have the radar pictures. The black box was found but the Turkish authorities are still working on it. So, if they found something, the Russians would definitely make a big fuss about that. So, it is very clear that probably the Turkish side is right about this and most of the Western countries are actually supporting Turkey’s position. I mean in terms of the international law, I think you have the right actually to do this. Whether it is a very harsh reaction, it is something to be discussed. But Turkey was warning Russia and on the day of the incident, they actually warned the Russian plane 10 times before they shot the Russian jet down and they got no response from the pilot. So, if you are talking about a situation like Syria and the Russians were aware that Turkey was actually implementing its engagement rules since 2012 when the Syrian forces actually shot down a Turkish jet this time. So if you fail to act on that because later on the Turkish government also said that we did not really know that was a Russian plane. 

So, I mean it might become a very dangerous situation. So, any country might do the same thing because it is actually a violation of your national sovereignty according to international law. So, this is what I have to say. Whether it was correct politically or etc. that is a different discussion but I am sure that Turkey did not really want to do this deliberately to lose your second most important trade partner all of a sudden. No country would want to do this just because of Syria. So, that is why Turkey is trying to fix the situation. They are trying to keep the tensions down. So, I think that is an important indication that Turkey does not want to lose Russia because of this incident and Syria is a very volatile region. So any two countries might have been in the same situation but because of what happened, it is Russia and Turkey currently.

Secondly, about this double standards thing, I also agree with Şaban Kardaş because I mean we are talking about two very different occasions - I believe - but in Russia’s case, as I said, Turkey was issuing these warnings to Russia. In Iraq, Turkey was there because of an agreement first of all and whenever Turkey found out that the Iraqi government was not happy about this deployment in Iraq, they actually decided to find a middle way and I think this is very important diplomatically at least. So, Turkey is trying to solve its problems diplomatically but in the case of Russia, for example, their position and what they started to do after the incident is completely different. So, I think this might be the thing about the Turkish diplomacy. We are trying to solve the problems.

And, something about the zero problem policy maybe, I think it might also be unfair to judge the 2002 and 2010 period and 2010 and 2015 period in foreign policy for any country in the region definitely. I mean you actually formulate a foreign policy according to the real dynamics in the region. So, between 2002 and 2010, Turkey was capable of doing this and I am sure any country would want zero problems with their neighbors. So, it is not only Turkey’s unique foreign policy to implement that theme but starting from 2010 and 2011, it really became, I think, impossible, this is my opinion, to continue the same track in your foreign policy especially in the Arab world. Two of Turkey’s neighbors are fighting with something that nobody is capable of dealing with, Syria and Iraq. So how are you going to implement the same policy from 2002 and 2010? 

So, these are really very tough decisions to make and I think Turkey has actually fluctuated so much but it is also the other countries, Russia even. I mean if you take a look at the Russian position to the United States’ position, you can see all these fluctuations and changes. So, I think it is not really very easy for any country to come up with a very consistent foreign policy especially after the Arab uprisings. 

Dr. Abdolrasool Divsallar: I try to be as short as possible. I think in order to have a better analysis regarding the policy making process in decision making systems, one should consider the fact that what are the policies’ outcomes. You see, you may say that is a kind of fast food calculation system but that is not true because the outcome of the policies are quite vivid. What I mean by the outcome of the policies is that the outcome of the Turks’ policies, as seen by the Iranians; this is the Iranian view, one cannot easily say that it is a fast food understanding. 

This is the thought that we and many people in the strategic arena think of in which siding of Turkey with Saudi Arabia is shaping a bloc; what I mean by bloc, of course, is not the kind of a bloc like NATO bloc or Warsaw Pact Bloc. It is a tactical bloc that is based on a common grounds and a common goal. Let’s consider it this way. We and Russians have lots of misunderstandings and lots of soured period of relations but when I say that we are making a bloc, it means that we are going to share a common understanding regarding a special problem and intrest in the region. So, especially that is the case between the Turkish and Saudi policy makers. I think Saudis are now going to be accepted by the Turks as the leader of the Muslim community because the Turks have their own call on that but we see a kind of common ground between Saudi policy and the Turkish policy. 

One more point is that I think we are here not as the speakers of our foreign policy system. We are not doing that. But, as I said, we should recommend new ideas for optimizing Iranian and Turkish foreign policy. I myself think that Iran should not use the Russian card against Turkey but the fact is that - I think - the Turkish side should consider this fact too that the Turkish foreign policy regarding Russia experienced severe strategic miscalculations. That is a fact. You know, downing of a Russian jet was a kind of miscalculation. You know, there is contradiction in this issue. For example, after downing of the Russian jet, the Turkish statement in the UN was that they did not know that was a Russian jet. So, which one is the true story? I mean, this is a kind of policy making analysis that we should consider that which part is faultier and which part is more correct. So, in order to avoid the future misunderstandings, we must think of our own relations.

Dr. Kayhan Barzegar: Well, we do not have a blame game presentation here. Dr. Nasri your final comments or answers please.

Dr. Ghadir Nasri: One of the questions was about the possibility of having a relation between Iran and Saudi Arabia. I think, first of all, we must know which region we are living in. We live in the Middle East. Unlike Europe and the West, identity is the fundamental basis for life. Middle East region is the territory of identities and identity is important for economic cooperation.

 Another reason is the entity of state in the rentier states especially in Saudi Arabia. Rentier states have a coalition with a foreign country which is very critical. What do you mean by the state in Turkey? An ideological state or a national state? I think for an ideological state such as Erdoğan, Saudi Arabia is the strategic coalition against Russia and Iran. 
But I have a comment for the discussion of Dr. Kardaş. I do not understand the motivation of Turkey for entering the north of Iraq. What is the place of ISIS and the KRG in the foreign policy of Turkey? Thank you!

Dr. Kayhan Barzegar: Dr. Kardaş, if you are kind enough to answer some of these rather tough questions. Let me add one also that I believe is a general question from Iranian public and that is really the insistence behind Turkey’s Syria policy. As of the change of Turkey’s zero problems policy, from my own view that Turkey is adjusting its’ policy is ok and respectable.

 Every country should do it, as Iran is doing so and becoming more pragmatic. Adjusting policies is ok but at the same time, I do not understand what really is this insistence behind Turkey’s Syria policy without any change? Is it somehow connected to your domestic politics? Is it related to Turkish regional power image? Is it related to Turkish economic interests? Is it this much important that you were ready to down a superpower jet that could be very dangerous and with a lot of precarious situations?
Dr. Şaban Kardaş: Let me start with the other discussion which has been nicely flowing through this point about the Turkish-Saudi common understanding. That is a good way to put it. Common understanding and you said common ground but we should ask why and here I will invite us to recall earlier mid-2015, President Erdoğan visited Tehran. As you would recall, before his trip he made a harsh ‘statement’ about Iranian policies and based on the statement even some people did claim that the trip will be canceled but at the end of the day, the trip took place. 

Let’s recall what he said there because it is important. I think it does reflect the Turkish thinking on Iran which may be a good way for our Iranian colleagues to understand how Turkey is seeing the common ground with the Saudis. He said Iran is trying to dominate the region to itself. Again, one of our colleagues earlier referred to President Erdoğan’s comments after the embassy incident. Here again in the very same statement, he is not making any particular religious identity-based references. Again, he is referring to Iran’s policies of domination. So, I think if there is a common ground, yes definitely is but this is in response to what the Turks pursue as Iranian policies seeking interests beyond understandable national interests. The interests that are based on some kind of hegemonic ambitions. This is the reading coming from Turkey. I think that is why Turkey is reacting. This is a conjectural convergence with Saudi Arabia. 

The professor said that for instance Erdoğan’s understanding is ideological approach but naturally it should go with Saudi Arabia. But let’s remember right before the current king, everybody was talking about Turkey-Saudi rivalry. Again it was the same Erdoğan. It was, as you said, the same Erdoğan in Syria. Even in Syria, Turkey and Saudi policies were different. If the real common ground for Turkey is ideological identity-based, we should have had a good time in Syria together with the Saudis. But from time to time, people talk about the Turkey-Saudi rivalry and sometimes the convergence of interests. So, my point therefore is that this is a policy that has ups and downs and it is the same for Iran. From time to time, we go through periods of cooperation, sometimes more rivalry. In that sense, we should really understand this power dynamics that are shaping the Turkish approach to Iran and as long as Turkey sees that Iranian policies are creating less tension in the region, Turkey will be more willing to go with Iranian positions.

Dr. Abdolrasool Divsallar: (responding to Dr. Kardas…) I am sorry, but isn’t it regarded as the Iran-U.S. nuclear deal? I mean isn’t there any connection? I mean this understanding of domination of the Turks regarding the Iranian policies, is it not related to Iran’s nuclear deal with the West and the U.S.? Because it is about changing policies of America too.

Dr. Şaban Kardaş: Well, I wish ambassador Tekin (Turkish ambassador in Iran) was here, maybe next time. He is in Ankara right now. He wrote a piece for the Iranian newspapers. I remember back in September-October, he was sharing the Turkish view of post-deal Iran and the overall Turkish reading was positive and I think it is still positive that the removal of sanctions and normalization of Iran’s relationship will bring cautious optimism. So this is what I called earlier last year. So, Turkey is still cautiously optimistic but at the end of the day, we also, as the Turks, believe that the onus is on Iran to show that Iran will not try to make use of the new leverage for more controversial policies. So far, from the Turkish point of view, the signal is negative. Rather than using the sanctions to ease the tensions in the region, the removal of the sanctions, there has been more controversy and we have to discuss it. We have to understand and I think maybe there is misperception but Iran should do more to communicate its real tensions. This is the responsibility that falls on the Iranian side and therefore we need more change between Turkey and Iran and Iran and Saudi Arabia perhaps. 

About northern Iraq and the Turkish interests there, as you may have followed, the Turkish interests in northern Iraq have grown in recent years especially after 2006 and 2007. There was a change in Turkish policy. For a long time, Turkey did oppose to the formation of some autonomous zone in the north because Turkey thought that that zone eventually may become independent; it can also ignite similar concerns inside Turkey. But after that time, Turkey changed its policy; Turkey did adopt a policy of engagement accommodation and as a result, Turkey’s objective was to convince the Iraqi Kurds to stay within Iraq in a better framework with the central government but also to lessen the antagonization between Turkey and the Kurds so that Turkey can also use the KRG Iraqi Kurds as a leverage for solving the Kurdish question inside Turkey. 

So, it was a two-way policy. On the one hand, as a regional policy and on the other hand, it was seen as leverage for Turkey on Kurdish question and in the process, we have seen there has been huge Turkish investments. Probably you might have visited Erbil and other places. You will see Turkish companies there but of course the question has become more delicate after August 2014 after ISIS advanced into the KRG region and that conflict between the Iraqi Kurds and ISIS has created a new dilemma for the future of Iraq, for the future of Turkey-KRG relations. Turkey still maintains good ties with the KRG government but we also know that there are differences among different Kurdish actors, PUK [the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan] and KDP [the Kurdistan Democratic Party]. 

So, it is adding a lot of new answers to Turkey’s policies but overall Turkey’s main objective is to ensure that KRG flourishes as a south sustaining stabled area within a unified Iraq vis-à-vis the territorial integrity of the country. 

Regarding the question about Syria consistence, I personally, as you said, at different conferences have come across with this. You would remember the Iranian scholar Vali Nasr, back in 2012, in July I guess, he wrote a piece, maybe you would recall, ‘Assadism without Assad: a solution for Syria’. Since then, we have been discussing at different platforms with different policy makers this question: why is Turkey insisting on the fact that the solution depends on the departure of Assad from his position? Is it just a personal obsession of President Erdoğan or just ideological? I have always defended this view vis-à-vis different westerners and still I do defend because it is based on an understanding that to really solve the crisis, you need to ensure the political transition. 

Without addressing of the root causes of the crisis which is the mismanaged political transition, there is no end and therefore in order to convince the Syrian people who in the first place went on the streets to demonstrate against President Assad, who the risk of losing their lives continue to demand the same thing, you cannot really have a political transition in Syria. 

So, the final solution somehow depends on a new political settlement in which Assad is no longer there and this is in a sense reflecting the hard reality of the Syrian opposition and the Syrian conditions. So Turkey in and off itself may say that for my own sake because Syria has become too costly and too risky, I agree to work with Assad. But will a solution depend on Assad’s taking of power work, irrespective of Turkey’s position? Will many opposition groups and at the end of the day, the real Syrian people really accept the fact that Assad will stay in power after all that has happened? This is not a realistic scenario and I think this is why Turkey has insisted on that position but the policy itself did change from time to time.

 Dr. Kayhan Barzegar: Ok! I think we have discussed the issues in a very proper way and I can tell you that we gave most of the time to our Turkish colleagues to express themselves to the Iranian audience. There is one gentleman who would like to say something about historical names. Please be short. 

Comment: Actually, it is a matter of the national interests and there is a gift for Professor Kardaş and I would like to talk about it in front of the audience because I have come a long way for this and I am not very much interested in the topic. I came a long way just for this purpose and it will only take a few minutes. 

Dr. Kayhan Barzegar: That is ok!  As I understand, the nature of your discussion is different from that of today’s discussion but I can give you time for saying a few words because it is late and we all are exhausted and we are already one hour late. Please.

Comment: I am Seyed Abbas Mojtahedi and I come from the Persian Gulf Studies Center and honestly speaking, I am not very much interested in what you were talking about here. I came a long way to just say one point. Honestly speaking, I think Iran and Turkey are natural allies in the region and this is my interview with Tehran Times. This is for you, Professor Kardaş. You have to read it in details. We were monitoring the ORSAM site for two years and in fact you were using the name because I am an expert at the Persian Gulf region. We were monitoring your site for two years and I have been to Turkey for 5 times and I just wanted to tell you that you are using the name Gulf of Basra in the ORSAM site. This is very important.  

I just want to remind you of first of all, this is for you; this is one of my books in English and of course this is the Turkish Atlas using the name Iran Gulf. Increase your knowledge in this field. I got this Atlas from Turkey. It is using Iran Gulf, the Gulf of Iran; it is the Persian Gulf. And, this is another map. This is the number one Atlas in Turkey. It is using the name Persian Gulf in Turkish language and of course this is another Turkish Atlas using the name Iran Gulf but your site is using the name Basra Gulf and the Gulf of Basra and of course this is also another one. This is Oxford Atlas, a very standard Atlas in the world that is using the name Persian Gulf. 

So, in the English version, I think you have to use the name Persian Gulf as a friend country because I am very much pro the good relations between Iran and Turkey and I will give you an example; if you go outside, no one will understand you are Turkish. Anyway, this is also my book [‘Persian Gulf response to be received’]; this is a gift for you and the United Nations letter to use the proper name and the standard name of Persian Gulf and this is also for you.

Dr. Kayhan Barzegar: Ok Dr. Mojtahedi. I think you made your point. Your point is that we cannot change a historical name which is absolutely correct and fare as the real name is, “Persian Gulf”. Dr. Kardaş, what is your reaction? 

Dr. Şaban Kardaş: In Turkey, the convention is to use Basra Gulf and I think these recent Atlases look more like primary schools than in the professional Atlases or the academic historic writings geography geopolitical department. So, I did not hear the use of Iranian Gulf but we need to check this as well. But the common usage in academics even policy discussions traditionally from the Ottoman time is to call it the Gulf of Basra. But on our English website, we are using the Persian Gulf. Maybe, I will check it when I am back. But it was a good research.

Dr. Kayhan Barzegar: Ok, thanks everyone! I think we should stop now. I thank the speakers and audience for being so attentive to the comments and questions especially Dr. Kardaş and Dr. Erşen. Please join us for group photo and reception. (Audience applause)   

Report: Fahimeh Ghorbani, a research fellow at IMESS  



IMESS- CENESS Joint Seminar on “Russia and the MiddleEast Nuclear Weapons Free Zone”
IMESS- CENESS Joint Seminar on “Russia and the MiddleEast Nuclear Weapons Free Zone”

Director Anton Kholpkov is a Member of Advisory Board of the Russian Security Council, Member of th...
Read More..

IMESS- AMU Joint Seminar on “Iran, Poland and the Middle East”
IMESS- AMU Joint Seminar on “Iran, Poland and the Middle East”

Professor Tadeusz Wallas’s is Dean of the Faculty of Political Science and Journalism at Adam Mickie...
Read More..