Yavuz Baydar is a journalist based in Istanbul. A founding member of the Platform for Independent Journalism (P24) and a news analyst, he won the European Press Prize in 2014. He has been reporting on Turkey and journalism issues since 1980.

  • Turkish-Iranian feud part of Ankara balancing act, On: Sun, 26 Feb 2017

  • Turkey’s Syrian problem turning into a riddle, On: Sun, 19 Feb 2017

  • Reviving a crisis kept frozen, On: Sun, 12 Feb 2017

  • Bells are ringing for Turkey’s moment of decision, On: Sun, 05 Feb 2017

  • Turkish educational system: Darwin out, jihad in, On: Sun, 29 Jan 2017

  • Why Erdogan is an ideal counterpart for Europe, On: Sun, 22 Jan 2017

  • Rushing Turkey headlong into a political abyss, On: Sun, 15 Jan 2017

  • Turkey’s security deficit invites further harm and instability , On: Sun, 08 Jan 2017

  • Erdogan’s brinksmanship, On: Sun, 25 Dec 2016

  • Stripped of Neo-Ottomanist dreams, Erdogan ties his hopes to Trump, On: Sun, 18 Dec 2016

  • ‘It will get worse, before it gets better’, On: Sun, 04 Dec 2016

  • Turkish crisis deepens with economic woes, On: Sun, 27 Nov 2016

  • Erdogan hopes for a new negotiation process with Trump , On: Sun, 13 Nov 2016

  • Erdogan is closing in on vision of one-man rule, On: Sun, 06 Nov 2016

  • What drives Erdogan?, On: Sun, 30 Oct 2016

  • Questions linger after Turkey’s attempted coup, On: Sun, 23 Oct 2016

  • Mosul is a ticking bomb, but against whom? , On: Sun, 16 Oct 2016

  • Rocking the boat, On: Sun, 09 Oct 2016

  • Happiness for Syrian refugee may be a debit card, On: Sun, 02 Oct 2016

  • Syrian Kurds’ delicate balancing act, On: Sun, 25 Sep 2016

  • Journalists in Turkey: An endangered species , On: Sun, 11 Sep 2016

  • Stuck in Syria: Will Turkey end up losing once more?, On: Sun, 28 Aug 2016

  • A mutually convenient ‘new page’, On: Sun, 14 Aug 2016

  • No room for illusions in Turkey’s future , On: Sun, 07 Aug 2016

  • Turkey after the coup attempt: Normalisation or deeper chaos?, On: Sun, 31 Jul 2016

  • Turkey risks being caged by AKP self-coup, On: Sun, 24 Jul 2016

  • Erdogan’s plan to naturalise Syrians proves divisive , On: Sun, 17 Jul 2016

  • Erdogan’s foreign policy ‘reset’, On: Sun, 03 Jul 2016

  • Dark days in Turkey, On: Sun, 26 Jun 2016

  • Turkey’s foreign policy setbacks, On: Sun, 19 Jun 2016

  • As its prime minister quits, Turkey nears abyss , On: Sun, 08 May 2016

  • Turkish-Iranian feud part of Ankara balancing act

    Having failed in its support of regime change in Syria, Ankara is in fierce search mode to prevent what it fears most.

    2017/02/26 Issue: 95 Page: 15

    Amid growing uncer­tainties in the geopolitical game over the future of war-torn Syria, the sudden eruption of tension between Turkey and Iran is just another phase of sectarian arm wrestling in the region.

    During a recent visit to Bahrain, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised the curtain. Talking about the forces that “damaged the Middle East”, he pointed at Teheran, saying: “There is Persian nationalism. We have to prevent this. We cannot just watch this oppression.”

    These remarks were followed by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who accused Iran of “wanting to make Syria and Iraq Shia”. Teheran countered when Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi stressed that Tehran’s patience “had its limits”.

    “We hope that such statements are not made again. If our Turkish friends continue with this attitude, we will not remain silent,” he said. The Turkish ambassador in Teheran was summoned to the ministry.

    The exchange coincides with the rapid visits to Ankara of high-level US officials, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff US Marine General Joseph Dunford. That Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim met with US Vice-President Mike Pence in Munich, where Cavusoglu’s Iran bashing was heard, is also note­worthy.

    Turkey’s efforts in establishing a balance between the two powers is at the very core of the develop­ment. Having failed in its support of regime change in Syria, Ankara is in a fierce search mode to prevent what it fears most — an area of Kurdish self-rule along its border. In exchange, it offers its armed forces as some form of political bait to Russia and the United States, hoping to get a place as the third tip of the complex triangle.

    Unhappy with the signals of warming of ties between US President Donald Trump and Erdogan, Russia has raised its hand by paying more attention to Kurdish demands. The most recent meeting in Moscow in which Kurdish representatives from Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey took part was seen as a counter move by Ankara and a new element for mistrust between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Erdogan. The Turkish leader then moved to act much more generously towards the Trump administration.

    Not much has been leaked from the meetings between the top US officials and their Turkish counterparts but the focus of Turkish rhetoric has been about an increased role in the Raqqa offensive against the Islamic State. The efforts with Russia to establish a ceasefire west of the Euphrates become complemen­tary to Ankara’s strategy to bring the two big powers onto the same page in blocking Kurds from building autonomy in the entire northern Syrian zone.

    Realising how solid Trump is in his view of Iran as the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, Erdogan has been very swift to shift his well-known policy of confrontation towards Tehran. His move, he obviously hopes, will tip the balances off of Russia’s game making.

    Erdogan may be reasoning that if a closer military and diplomatic cooperation to antagonise Iran, which Israel would support in significant ways, would also involve Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani and energy prospects, it would end in a win-win for the United States and NATO and grant Turkey stronger leverage to block the Syrian Kurds’ moves that it sees as an existential threat.

    Then, he has also the sectarian — Sunni — element in his bag.

    That Erdogan made his remarks on Iran in Bahrain is no coinci­dence. As Turkish journalist Serkan Demirtas pointed out in the Hurriyet Daily News: “Erdog­an’s tour to the Gulf countries, where he had extensive talks with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, should also be regarded complementary to Ankara’s efforts to influence Trump’s future Middle East policies…

    “This is a clear attempt to widen a potential Ankara-Washington cooperation with the inclusion of the rich Gulf countries… It’s still early to see this as an intention to create a joint block with Gulf countries against Iran but is sufficient to draw Tehran’s criticism.”

    Will Erdogan’s efforts to bring Turkey back into the big game work? Much, almost all, depends on whether he and Trump strike a bargain. Even then, they may fall short.

    “The perplexing question is how long Turkey will be able to manage the divergent interests of the US and Russia,” wrote Metin Gurcan, a Turkish military analyst. “Whether Turkey will opt for close cooperation with Russia or the United States in northern Syria is not a routine foreign policy decision but a major one that will certainly determine the route Turkey will be following in years to come.”

    One consequence would be a fallout with Tehran. Given how masterfully Iran has played its cards since second Gulf War, the only great certainty is the tight­rope walk of Ankara. The cancella­tion of the Turkish-Iran Business Forum in Tehran, with a potential of $30 billion in trade, is only an early sign.

    Editors' Picks

    The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

    From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

    Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

    Deputy Editor-in-Chief: Dalal Saoud

    Senior Editor: John Hendel

    Chief Copy Editors: Jonathan Hemming and Richard Pretorius

    Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

    Opinion Section Editor: Claude Salhani

    East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

    Levant Section Editor: Jamal J. Halaby

    Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

    Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

    Senior Correspondents:

    Mahmud el-Shafey (London)

    Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)


    Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

    Dunia El-Zobeidi (London)

    Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

    Rasha Elass - Thomas Seibert (Washington)

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Contact editor at:editor@thearabweekly.com

    Subscription & Advertising: Ads@alarab.co.uk

    Tel 020 3667 7249

    Mohamed Al Mufti

    Marketing & Advertising Manager

    Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

    Direct: +44 20 8742 9262


    Al Arab Publishing House

    Kensington Centre

    66 Hammersmith Road

    London W14 8UD, UK

    Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

    Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

    Follow Us
    © The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved