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Iran, Turkey and Azerbaijan: Heading Towards a Regional Crisis? 28 septembre 2012

Posted by Acturca in Caucasus / Caucase, Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie.
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PISM Policy Papers, No. 35, September 2012, 9 p.
The Polish Institute of International Affairs

Konrad Zasztowt *

The Middle Eastern map of political alliances, affiliations and animosities is being constantly redrawn, but certain elements endure. The revolutionary turmoil in the region, now on full display in Syria, together with mounting tensions over issues such as Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability, are the most pertinent issues that are bringing to the fore the deep, structural differences inherent in the Turkish-Iranian-Azerbaijani triangle. After what seemed as a period of growing Turkish-Iranian affinity in the past decade, the relations between Ankara and Tehran are on a downward trajectory. Turkey found it impossible to continue with the policy of „zero problems with neighbours” in the light of the events in Syria—it sided with the Sunni opposition, thus antagonizing not only the regime in Damascus, but also its most valued ally, Iran. In addition, Turkey seems to have re-calibrated its position on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, using it to signal the lack of support for Tehrans anti-Western policies. In case of Azerbaijan, religious affinity with Iran seems to count less than the underlying geopolitical choices. On top of that, a secular Azerbaijan finds itself in a sharp ideological conflict with a teocratic Iran, and is deeply concerned with Iran’s anti-Israeli rhetorics and actions. Whether a regional crisis will unfold is largely dependent on the ability of all three countries to forestall the escalation of the existing problems into much graver feuds.

* Konrad Zasztowt is an analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs. He specializes in the South Caucasus and Central Asia regions. Previously he worked at the National Security Bureau (2008 – 2010), where he monitored  international security issues in the Black Sea and Caspian regions.

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