Nobody’s business but the Turks’

Nobody’s business but the Turks’

Cagil M. Kasapoglu

NOW Lebanon

"Lovely" deal

The nuclear fuel swap deal Turkey and Brazil hammered out with Iran earlier this month, allowing the Islamic Republic to ship uranium to Turkey for enrichment rather than doing it itself was both feted and panned, depending on whom you ask.

Turkey’s attempt to diffuse the standoff between the West and Iran, while involving Brazil at the negotiation table, was for some an example of smooth diplomatic maneuvering, while others considered it an attempt to make the Iranian regime look more legitimate on the world stage without reducing the chances of it building a nuclear weapon.

Western analysts have been quite vocal against the deal since it went down earlier this month, although it is almost identical to one put forth in October by the International Atomic Energy Association along with the members of the Vienna Group, the United States, France and Russia. But little has been said about the Turkish perspective on the deal.

“I believe that this initiative led by Turkey and Brazil is a revolt of developing countries against the decreasing legitimacy and power of the UN Security Council’s five permanent states, who have been dominating world politics since World War II,” said Ceyda Karan, the foreign news editor of Turkish daily Radikal.

“Turkey and Brazil are the temporary members on the council, unlike the five other permanent countries, thus their legitimacy means more than the states who hold a veto right,” Karan said, adding that the current structure of the Security Council doesn’t correspond to the realities of the 21st century.

Soon after the fuel swap agreement was signed, a draft sanctions report began to circulate at the Security Council, a clear sign of members rejecting Turkey’s brokering attempts.

In a further blow to Turkey, Tehran announced that it would continue to escalate its uranium enrichment to 20 percent, which would pave the way for the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

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The West is suspicious of Iran, and therefore Turkey’s intent. According to Bayram Sinkaya, an expert in Iranian politics at the Ankara-based Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM), if Iran had agreed on the treaty in October, its credibility would have been much higher than it is today in the eyes of Western powers.

Moreover, the new deal “does not satisfy the West because it only solves one out of many other problems, which is location and timing. But still it does not stop nuclear enrichment in Iran, as the West requires,” Sinkaya said.

Semih Idiz, a columnist at Turkish daily Milliyet wrote this week that if the sanctions get applied with the support of past holdouts China and Russia, it would be a clear diplomatic failure for Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and would harm its “heroic stance against the West.”

The deal with Iran would also undoubtedly harm relations between Washington and Ankara, he said.

Although it has been panned by Western powers, Sinkaya believes that inking the deal is a remarkable first step on the way to establishing successful diplomatic relations between Ankara and Iran, which will be lucrative for both states – in recent months, Turkey has announced its aim to increase its trade with Iran to $20 billion annually by 2011.

“Turkey will indeed follow its own national interests, and will be accountable for the possible threats against its neighbor,” said Karan. “For instance, if Canada was threatened, what would its trade partner, the US, do?”

As neighbors, Turkey and Iran need each other politically and economically. But in the end, whether or not Ankara was acting purely in self-interest, the last word on sanctions belongs to the White House and its powerful Security Council allies.

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