Turkey and Iran – Best of Friends

Hürriyet newspaper reported this morning that in the first five months of this year, 1052 foreign firms were established in Turkey. A sign of – what? Development? Globalization? Hmm, I wonder… Of those 1052 foreign firms, the largest numbers originated in Germany (no surprise there with 123 firms) and – drum roll, please – Iran. Yes, Iran with 120 firms.In the last few weeks, particularly following the scandalous and tragic clashes between Israeli soldiers and international (including Turkish) ships breaking the blockade to bring aid to Gaza, Turkish papers, commentators, humanitarians, and huge numbers of bloggers have had a field day with pro-Gaza, anti-Israeli stories and reports. And beside each of the newspaper reports, one could typically find a colorful photo of a smiling Ahmadinejad, the grin a bit too smug, a bit too self-congratulatory. The puppet-master sitting back and appreciating the play he has wrought.

More to the point, if you keep your eyes open, have been the photos of Ahmadinejad and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, side by side, hand in hand, Erdoğan’s smile only slightly less smug, but equally satisfied with himself and the scenario he is creating. A few days ago, Turkish papers reported on how Ahmadinejad described a recent communication between Ahmadinejad’s new best friend Erdoğan and his long-time foe the United States: “Obama calls Erdoğan to plead with him.” I wasn’t present when the call took place, yet I find it hard to believe that Obama begged Erdoğan to do … well, anything.

Whether or not it happened quite that way, it is clear that, at least as regards Erdoğan and Ahmadinejad, Turkey and Iran have become fast friends yet again. All for utilitarian purposes. Largely, as the economic reports suggest, for financial reasons. Which you would expect anyway, right? But more insidiously, for religio-political purposes. Erdoğan has been dying for another opportunity to disprove Atatürk’s resolute belief that Turkey’s future lay with the West. (I easily imagine, in my angrier moments, Erdoğan throwing darts at a picture of Mustafa Kemal. Late at night. With the doors locked. Just in case anyone might chance along.)

As for Ahmadinejad, imagine how much pleasure he derives from forcing ever larger and larger wedges – spiked wedges – between the U.S., the largest military member of NATO, and Turkey, the second largest member. How he gloats, not just at the harm to U.S.-Turkish relations, but to the zealous attacks against Israel by Turks, both in there private and public capacities, both as Islamists and secularists. Has Erdoğan ever enjoyed so much popularity? Finally he has found something that even hardcore secularists can praise him for – hating Israel and – can this really be true – for loving Iran!

The puppet-master keeps pulling his strings, chuckling all the while. And look at how we dance here in Turkey. Look at how we dance!