Ankara: The West is angered about Turkey's
refusal to go along with it on Iran sanctions, but unlikely to
try to punish Ankara as it needs help with neighbouring Syria,
While Washington and Brussels are ardent supporters of
sanctions to force Iran to abandon its contested nuclear
programme, Turkey believes tough measures will backfire and
instead backs the policy of engagement and diplomacy.
Turkish officials have refused to join the latest US and
EU sanctions against Iran, which include a ban on oil imports,
and are only bound by UN Security Council measures.
But analysts said that while Turkey has come pressure
from Washington, it will be protected from its wrath largely
because of the Syrian crisis on its doorstep.
"First of all, the Obama administration needs Turkey's
help in contending with the Arab political uprisings,
especially the difficult situation in Syria," said Barbara
Slavin, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council of the United
Since the outbreak of the uprisings in mid-March last
year, Ankara and Washington have been coordinating policies on
how to respond to President Bashar al-Assad's deadly crackdown
on dissent which has claimed over 7,600 lives according to UN
Both have called on Assad to step down, and also worry
the unrest could deepen in a region already jolted by last
year's Arab Spring uprisings.
Indeed, the Turkish government "is taking the opposite
side from Iran on the Syrian crisis," said Slavin.
As Syria's closest ally in the region, Iran has stood
behind the regime in Damascus while Turkey accused it of
"mercilessly murdering" its own people.
The unrest in Syria is not the only divergence in
Ankara's decision to allow a early radar system to be
stationed on its soil as part of a NATO missile defense scheme
is another source of tension in the two neighbours'
Turkey, a member of NATO since 1952, has insisted that
Iran is not target of the radar but Turkish pleas fell on deaf
ears in Tehran which warned that Ankara's consent would create
tension and lead to "complicated consequences."
Turkish willingness to get tough with Syria's brutal
crackdown and to host NATO radar system on its soil have
proved Turkey is still anchored to the West.
Only two years ago, a Turkish veto of a UN Security
Council resolution calling for tougher sanctions against Iran
shocked Washington, rekindling debates over EU hopeful
Turkey's East-West orientation.
First Published: Sunday, March 11, 2012, 20:42