Both Turkey and Iran are striving for a noble goal: the conversion of the world to Islam. While the increasingly religiously oriented ruler of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, strives for world domination by the Sunnis, Iran's Supreme Ayatollah, Ali Khamenei, fights for a Shiite world. Both are convinced that they are commissioned by Allah and supported by Him in their struggle. However, in the reality of Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen, militants of the Sunnah and Shia collide with terrible consequences for the civilian population.

   A moment of reflection should make it clear to the leaders of the two competing faiths that the struggle against each other for supremacy in individual countries can only be detrimental to the overarching quest for world domination. As long as Sunnis and Shiites fight each other, Christians, Jews and agnostics can watch gloatingly. An idea which should rob Erdogan and Chamenei of their sleep. But it's not. Because the two gentlemen have long since come to an arrangement.

  Their countries share 500 kilometres of a common border which would permit to fight the Sunna/Schia conflict to the end. Instead, the two countries coexist peacefully and trade actively. Turkey has recently opened more border crossings into the neighboring country. While the Turks are persecuting their Shiite minorities and the Iranians are harassing their Sunnis - at the border they greet each other and cooperate against a common enemy: the Kurdish minority on both sides of the border. The peaceful attitude is also due to the realization that two powers of equal size (82 million inhabitants each), which are heavily armed should respect each other instead of being belligerent.

   In January 2014 Ayatollah Khamenei received the (then) Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan in Tehran. Erdogan sat on the sofa like a schoolboy and listened to the imposing full bearded El Seyyid Khamenei, the Pope of the Shiites. "Iran is like my second home," said Erdogan. He obviously admires the Islamic Republic and its almighty boss. Since 2014 Erdogan has been restlessly working to transform Turkey into a similar theocracy. He has understood that the ultimate goal of converting the world to Islam is not possible against the powerful Persians, but only jointly with them. And for Ali Khamenei this is a welcome development. In the constant conflict with the U.S., Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Egypt, he needs allies, even if they are Sunnis who delight in accusing the Shiites of polytheism.

   In October 2017 Erdogan visited Tehran again and called for the bilateral trade to be increased from 10 to 30 billion dollars a year. Turkey imports Iranian oil and natural gas on a large scale, thereby breaking the US-American sanctions. The currency-hungry neighbor was supplied large quantities of gold by mafia traders with close ties to the Ankara cabinet, using the services of the state-owned Halkbank*).  The gold was subsequently converted in Dubai to foreign exchange, as the Turkish-Iranian trafficker Reza Zarrab, arrested and convicted in America, admitted in 2017 to Ankara's displeasure. In view of President Trump's renewed and tightened sanctions against Tehran, Turkey is once again Iran's most important gateway to the world, alongside China and North Korea.

   However, the fraternal love between Ankara and Tehran is costing Turkey dearly this time. Erdogan's refusal to support American sanctions and to refrain from any trade and financial transactions with Iran is the main reason for the current conflict between Washington and Ankara. It's officially about the arrested Pastor Brunson.

   In reality, however, Washington wants to put a stop to the autocrat Erdogan. For too long the State Department has watched Erdogan's imperialist aspirations. In his efforts to establish Turkey as a major power in Asia and Africa, he visited and massaged the governments of even such marginal countries as Mauritania and Madagascar. He is busy building mosques in the Balkans.  In Syria he is trying to carve out a corner of the neighboring country for criminal jihad militias. In Iraq, his military is fighting Kurdish guerrilla retreat positions. In Libya, he supports the Muslim Brothers groups in Tripolitania. He is a close friend of Hamas in Gaza and increasingly an enemy of Israel. In the Gulf, he supports Iran-friendly Qatar and protects it with troops from its neighbors Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. In Europe, he mobilizes the Turkish diaspora as a national-religious fifth column.

  But that's not all. With Russia's construction of a nuclear power plant and the Turkish purchase of the Russian S 400 missile defence system, Erdogan has signaled that he does not consider NATO to be without alternatives. Turkey's withdrawal from NATO is no longer a question of whether, but only of when, given the current dispute between Washington and Ankara. NATO membership is incompatible with the pursuit of the role of a great power and with Islamic credibility.  The alliance constitutes a bondage that Erdogan will get rid of as soon as an appropriate opportunity arises. His people will cheer him, as always. NATO needs Turkey, but Turkey does not need NATO. Apart from Assad's Syria and the rebellious Kurds, she is surrounded by friends.

   Erdogan likes to hint at alternative orientations for Turkey. But what alliance could replace NATO? Pakistan offers itself and could possibly supply valuable nuclear armament technology. But Pakistan is chaotic and weak. China would be a good partner with its New Silk Road policy if only the Uighurs did not exist. Erdogan has acted as a protector and sympathizer of the Islamic Uighurs for years - to China's annoyance. So Russia seems the only possible NATO replacement. But Putin's Russia is as unreliable as Erdogan's Turkey. Not a good basis for an alliance.

   For the time being, Trump threw a spoke into the Turkish-Iranian wheel. Turkey must be interested in the continued existence of the Ayatollah regime in its neighboring country. If President Trump succeeds with his sanctions in unleashing a revolution of despair in Iran that will force the Ayatollahs back into the mosques, then Erdogan's Turkey would be the next target of Evangelical Trump fans. The NATO partnership would certainly not prevent Trump from taking robust action against the Muslim brothers regime in Ankara, with applause from Saudi Arabia and Egypt. New American weapons are already being withheld from Turkey.

   In Turkey's current economic crisis, Europe is well advised to hold its breath and avoid any support for Erdogan. It is also advisable to forget Turkey's NATO role as a supposedly "stabilising factor in the troubled Middle East". President Erdogan's Turkey is not stabilizing anything. anywhere -- on the contrary. The deployment of its troops in Syria, Iraq and Qatar can only cause difficulties and embarassment for NATO. Although the alliance is not permitted to kick out any member it should not be sad if a member leaves on its own.

   No one doubts that Turkey's current economic crisis is the result of Erdogan's irregular economic policy, which focuses on his aversion to interest rates. He is persistently fighting against interest rate hikes demanded in vain by the Central Bank in the face of prevailing inflation. This situation provides the well-to-do upper class, which has access to bank loans, with risk-free profitable transactions. They can borrow lira from the bank, buy dollars, euros or gold and pay off the loan months later with devalued lira.

   Erdogan's hostility toward interest is based on religion. The Qur'an and other writings prohibit interest transactions because they allegedly "exploit" the borrower. This is a way of thinking that was not unusual at the time of the prophet and before. At that time, the value of metal money was stable because it could not be increased at will. The term inflation, which characterises Turkey's economy today, did not exist.

   Erdogan is a man of strong opinions and the will to shape the world as it should be according to Sharia law. Since the Qur'an is never wrong, his economic policy must be successful because "the others have their dollars, but we have Allah!" The crisis, if he acknowledges it at all, could therefore only be a result of envy for Turkey's success and of sabotage by Christian and Jewish foreign countries. During the crisis it seems logical to him to request the religious and national support of his people and of Muslims worldwide  It remains to be seen how far he will succeed..

Ihsan al-Tawil

 

Update

*)    "...Turkey asked the U.S. to drop an ongoing investigation into Halkbank, one of the biggest state-owned Turkish banks. Halkbank faces major fines for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions on Iran. In exchange, the Turkish government would release Andrew Brunson, an American pastor..."