August 29, 2020 | The Hill

Iran and Turkey sing from the same sheet of music against Israel-UAE rapprochement

August 29, 2020 | The Hill

Iran and Turkey sing from the same sheet of music against Israel-UAE rapprochement

Excerpt

“The bowl that’s hotter than the soup” is a popular Persian expression describing a person more invested in others’ affairs than a source of authority on those affairs. It is also a fitting idiom for today’s Middle East, particularly Turkey and Iran, which are two majority Muslim but non-Arab powers that strongly condemned the latest iteration of Arab-Israeli peace: a U.S.-brokered agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

What makes their condemnation ironic, is that while in 2020 the UAE became the third Arab country to recognize Israel — after Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994) — Turkey and Iran were, long ago, the first (1949) and second (1950) majority Muslim nations, respectively, to establish relations with the Jewish state. Ankara’s convergence with Tehran, both in terms of policy and rhetoric, is a reflection of the tectonic shifts that are reconfiguring alliances in the broader Middle East by bringing Israel and select Arab states closer together.

Although Turkey and Iran have competed over regional hegemony for centuries, more recently, they have exhibited a willingness to “compartmentalize” their rivalry and make the most of any tactical convergence — be it through sanctions-busting or anti-Kurdish policies, for example. The engine behind this convergence has been the same: Islamist state capture, first via a popular revolution in Iran (1979) and then using the ballot box in Turkey (2002). Its results have led to a more robust assault against the U.S.-led world order, as well as a nosedive in relations with Israel and other U.S. partners in the Middle East. The ascendancy of political Islam in Iran and Turkey also helps explain why their leaders champion rivals to the United States and its regional partners, and in effect, style themselves as “supporters” of the Palestinian and other rejectionist causes.

Behnam Ben Taleblu is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (@FDD) think-tank in Washington, D.C., where Aykan Erdemir, a former Turkish Parliamentarian, is the senior director of the Turkey program. Follow Aykan on Twitter @aykan_erdemir.

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Issues:

Gulf States Iran Israel Kurds Palestinian Politics Turkey