By | Rachel Brooks
With special guest Dr. Ali Demirdas. Dr. Demirdas is an expert of Turkish foreign policy. His work has appeared in publications such as The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, Fair Observer, Inside Arabia, and more.
Interviewers questions are in bold, responses are in plain text throughout.
Image credit: photo submitted by the guest, fair use.
U.S. democracy was undermined by the events in Congress on January 6. How will America’s recently undermined democracy affect the Iranian region, and U.S. foreign policy?
I am beginning to see signs of disruption in civilian-military relations in the United States. For some time, the Pentagon has been acting autonomously from the Congressional oversight, of which American lawmakers have repeatedly complained. We must remember that Trump has planted his loyalists within the Pentagon recently. If these Trump loyalists are not removed, it may result in the State Department, the civilians, being unable to sync American policy projection with soldiers.
How all this is going to be reflected in the Middle East has yet to be seen but it may not serve American interest considering we are seeing a stronger and more coherent Turkish and Russian presence in the Middle East.
Also, the US has lost the moral justification to spread democracy in the region. This will make Biden’s declared policy of “strengthening democracy” across the world very difficult. The US is losing credibility in this field by amassing 25,000 soldiers in Washington, with private companies clamping down on ‘hate language’ it gives the appearance that they are taking away freedom of speech. Many Trump supporters believe that they are initiating what appears to be a ‘witch hunt’ on anyone who has displayed support for Trump. These are the things that appear to be what dictators are known to do. However, I expect that Biden will still likely push the Middle Eastern dictatorships toward a democratic transition.
How will Iran’s return to the nuclear deal allow Russia to take advantage of the oil industry in the region?
With Democrats controlling Congress and the Presidency, Biden has announced an ambitious plan called the Green Deal. According to this, Washington will push for clean air, water, and soil. This will likely not only impact the American oil industry but the Gulf oil producers in the Middle East. The US under the Biden Administration will move away from oil towards cleaner energy sources. (Today, Biden announced he is canceling the Keystone XL oil pipeline that is built to carry oil from Canada to Texas, US) This fear of Biden’s impending war on hydrocarbon energy has prompted Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to mend their ties with Qatar and Turkey in hopes of creating a regional block against Biden’s impending charge against them. We may witness America’s relations souring with those Middle Eastern monarchies.
With regards to Iran, Biden and the previous Obama Administration have had this urge to salvage Iran from the Washington hawks. Biden could turn a blind eye to Iran’s oil exports in hope of reviving the Iranian economy while clamping down on the Gulf oil producers.
Could the Iran-US rapprochement negatively affect Turkey?
Yes. If the constricting sanctions are eased, Iran will be able to generate revenues to fund its notorious Shia militia network that stretches from Iran to Lebanon, from Yemen to Syria. The last thing Turkey would want is the strengthening of this Shia influence across its borders in Syria and Iraq. One reason Turkish-Iraqi relations are improving is this possibility. Israel too is going to be disturbed by the rising Shia influence. A Turkish-Israeli rapprochement to counter Iran may be on the table in the coming months.
Moreover, if Iran openly increases its nuclear weapons capabilities, countries such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia will not hesitate to build their own nuclear weapons program, ushering an unprecedented nuclear arms race in the region. This scenario may not end well!
How will Turkey reflect on the post Karabakh War region?
By facilitating the decisive Azeri victory in Karabakh, Turkey has become one of the winners of the chess game in the Caucasus. The most important of these gains is the establishment of a direct land route between Turkey and Azerbaijan via Armenia. Moreover, the Turkish military, for the first time since 1918 will be stationed in Azerbaijan. These are major victories for Ankara. However, at the same time, Russia has set foot in the Azeri territories in what is left of the Armenian controlled Nagorno-Karabakh. This is clearly an attempt to not only establish a presence in the former Soviet sphere but also to counterbalance Turkey and even Iran in the region.
What about Turkey’s possible departure from NATO?
I have written an article called, ‘Should Turkey be Kicked out of NATO?’ where I explained why Turkey and NATO will not be mutually unwilling to part their ways. In fact, the French president Macron, who has previously said that NATO is brain dead, sent a letter to Mr. Tayyip Erdogan expressing his intent to improve relations with NATO.
Europe needs NATO to counter Russia’s increasing aggressiveness on its doorstep. (Ukraine, Belorussia, and Georgia.) Furthermore, Biden announced his desire to counter Russia by strengthening NATO. Without Turkey’s military power, NATO is ineffective. Therefore, it looks as if it is necessary to increase cooperation among NATO members.