The relationship between Iran and Turkey is becoming a textbook example of how friendships borne out of convenience and expediency don’t last for a very long time in international affairs. The unholy alliance between Tehran and Ankara was fast becoming a defining feature of the Middle East and the surrounding region. However, the apparent friendship between Iran and Turkey is now coming to a dead-end over Erdoğan’s attempts to fan separatism within the Shi’ite country.
On Friday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned Turkey’s Ambassador after the Turkish President interfered in Iran’s internal affairs during a visit to Azerbaijan. Erdoğan recited a poem about the partition of Azerbaijan’s territory between Russia and Iran during the 19th century. Tehran, of course, has got concerned about how Erdoğan could be trying to instigate separatist tendencies among Iran’s Azeri minority.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said, “The Turkish ambassador was informed that the era of territorial claims and expansionist empires is over.” It added, “Iran does not allow anyone to meddle in its territorial integrity.”
Earlier, the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif too had tweeted, “Pres. Erdogan was not informed that what he ill-recited in Baku refers to the forcible separation of areas north of Aras from Iranian motherland.”
Pres. Erdogan was not informed that what he ill-recited in Baku refers to the forcible separation of areas north of Aras from Iranian motherland
Didn't he realize that he was undermining the sovereignty of the Republic of Azerbaijan?
NO ONE can talk about OUR beloved Azerbaijan
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) December 11, 2020
Iran’s Foreign Minister also wrote, “Didn’t he (Erdoğan) realize that he was undermining the sovereignty of the Republic of Azerbaijan?” He added, “NO ONE can talk about OUR beloved Azerbaijan.” Zarif was actually referring to a region in Northwest Iran where many ethnic Azeris live.
The sudden outburst of diplomatic tensions between Iran and Turkey is actually a consequence of the recent skirmishes between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Ankara supports a Turkic Azerbaijan against a Christian Armenia for geopolitical reasons. By sponsoring attacks against Armenia and letting Baku take control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, Erdoğan wants to unite the Turkic world from Central Asia to Turkey under Ankara’s leadership.
However, Erdoğan’s lofty ambitions are hurting the Shi’ite country. Azeris are an ethnic minority within Iran, and the Iranian region of Azerbaijan borders the independent State of Azerbaijan. Though the minority community observes Shi’ite Islam, which is Iran’s state religion, Tehran does remain apprehensive about Azeris developing separatist tendencies. Whenever Turkey instigates Baku to cross swords with Yerevan, Tehran feels insecure about its Azerbaijan.
Erdoğan has been trying to revive the sentiment of Azeri nationalism and chauvinism. Erdoğan’s main ambition is to embolden Baku but when he tries raking up a strong sense of nationalism within the Azeris, Turkey’s President ends up creating a sense of disaffection amongst Azeris within Iran.
Therefore, Erdoğan’s geopolitical ambitions are driving a deep wedge between the two countries. Erdoğan keeps inciting Azeri separatism in Iran and now Tehran is going all guns blazing over Azeris.