TEHRAN – Turkey must radically rethink its policies on Syria, the NATO
missile shield, and promoting Muslim secularism in the Arab world – or face
trouble from its own people and neighbors, a key aide to Iran’s supreme leader
said on Saturday.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s military adviser described
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s invitation to Arab countries to adopt
Turkish-style democracy as “unexpected and unimaginable,” speaking in an
interview with the semi-official Mehr news agency.
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Turkey and Iran, the
Middle East’s two major non- Arab Muslim states, are vying for influence in the
Arab world as it goes through the biggest shake-up since the Ottoman Empire
fell, a rivalry that has strained their previously close relations.
cheering crowds greeted Erdogan on his recent tour of North Africa, Tehran
accused him of serving US interests by opposing Syrian President Bashar Assad’s
crackdown on street protests and agreeing to NATO’s missile defense.
behavior of Turkish statesmen towards Syria and Iran is wrong and, I believe,
they are acting in line with the goals of America,” Maj.- Gen. Yahya
Rahim-Safavi told Mehr.
“If Turkey does not distance itself from this
unconventional political behavior it will have both the Turkish people turning
away from it domestically, and the neighboring countries of Syria, Iraq and Iran
[reassessing] their political ties.”
Khamenei has dubbed the Arab
uprisings an “Islamic awakening,” predicting peoples in the Middle East that
have overthrown dictatorial, Western-backed regimes will follow the path Iran
took after its 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The uprisings have been generally
secular in nature, analysts say.
Erdogan’s advocacy of secular Muslim
democracy – which he extolled during his tour of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya last
month – is far from the message the Islamic Republic of Iran wants spread in the
“I think the Turks are treading a wrong path. It might very well
be that the path was set for them by the Americans,” Rahim- Safavi
“The Turks have so far committed a few strategic wrongs. One was
Erdogan’s trip to Egypt and his presentation of the secular model there. This
fact was unexpected and unimaginable since the Egyptian people are
While Tehran has publicly urged its close ally Syria to listen
to people’s legitimate demands, Erdogan has predicted Assad will be ousted
“sooner or later” and is set to impose sanctions on Damascus, despite a veto on
UN action by Russia and China.
But it is Turkey’s decision to deploy a
NATO missile early-warning system that has most angered Tehran, which sees this
as a US ploy to protect Israel from any counterattack should the Jewish state
target Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Rahim-Safavi said trade ties with
Turkey – which is an importer of Iranian gas and exporter of an array of
manufactured goods – would be in jeopardy if Ankara does not change
“If Turkish political leaders fail to make their foreign policy and
ties with Iran clear, they will run into problems.
If, as they claim,
they intend to raise the volume of contracts with Iran to the $20 billion mark,
they will ultimately have to accommodate Iran.”