Relations between Tehran and Ankara appeared to grow even more strained on
Sunday, when a high-ranking Iranian official said it would consider any attack
on Syria as an attack on itself.
Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide to Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei said “Syria has a very basic and key role in the region for
promoting firm policies of resistance... for this reason an attack on
Syria would be considered an attack on Iran and Iran’s allies.”
he made a similar statement warning against attempts to topple the Syrian
president, saying that the fate of Bashar Assad was a ‘red line’ for
Meanwhile, Turkey has been sent the first of six Patriot missile
batteries being supplied by NATO countries to defend it from a possible Syrian
The US, Germany and the Netherlands are each sending two
batteries to Turkey and up to 400 soldiers to operate them after Ankara
requested aid from NATO. The Patriots are capable of shooting down hostile
missiles in mid-air.
Turkey and Iran used to have a closer relationship
before the Syrian uprising aggravated sectorial tensions throughout the region.
Both country’s governments base their rule on Islamic ideology, but the Turkey
is very upset with the slaughter of Syrian Sunnis and Iran’s strong backing of
Ankara has also accused Tehran of supporting the militant
Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Turkey has, however, backed Iran in international
circles, having rejected a vote on sanctions on Tehran at the UN Security
Council back in 2010.
More recently, the Islamist Turkish press, which
tends to back Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has begun to voice its
frustrations with Iran according to a report by Mustafa Akyol in the news
website Al-Monitor. He quotes Mustafa Ozcan, a veteran foreign policy pundit,
writing in Yeni Vakit, condemning “Iran’s shamelessness.”
Ozcan goes on
to state that “Iran has become the No. 1 enemy of Turkey during the Arab Spring
and its Syrian phase. This is despite the fact that Turkey has acted as a
protector of Iran in international settings. Regardless, Iran threatens Turkey
almost every day. She betrays her friend.”
Akyol goes on to quote other
Islamist papers such as the daily Yeni Safak, where columnist Veysi Ates wrote a
piece entitled, “This is a disgrace, Iran.”
Akyol concludes that “Such
comments have become common in the pro-Islamic Turkish media, as Iran’s support
for the Assad regime becomes more and more reviled. While some of the critics
seem to have a Sunni bias against Iran’s Shi’ite identity, the majority tries to
avoid a sectarian tone.
The common view is that Iran is blindly sectarian
in the Middle East, supporting its Shi’ite (or even Shi’ite-lite) allies at the
expense of innocent lives and unity of Muslims.”
Iran responded last week
by trying to downplay tensions between the two countries.
Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani was quoted by Iran’s Press TV saying Iran and
Turkey “should settle problems in this country [Syria] through cooperation with
each other and prevent further deterioration of the situation.”
also thanked Erdogan for helping in the release of 48 Iranian pilgrims who were
abducted by the opposition in Syria.
Despite the increase in tensions,
the two countries announced on Sunday that they were founding a joint university
near their common border.
“Officials from Van Yuzuncu Yıl University and
the Iranian University of Tabriz will work together to establish the
Turkish-Iranian university,” reported the Turkish paper Today’s
The agreement will be renewed every year automatically unless
there is an objection by either party.
Reuters contributed to this