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TEHRAN AND THE REGIONAL RAMIFICATIONS OF THE ELECTIONS IN TURKEY

"If you have been fair with your subjects, you need not fear your enemies."

Saadi-Iranian Poet (AD. 1194-1291)


It is time of grave and fateful decisions for the Mullahs' regime in Tehran. At a time when the Mullahs should have been celebrating a series of dramatic successes for the Islamists, they are confronted with the need to launch another wave of international terrorism and subversion against the US and its allies in order to save their regime.

This seeming contradiction is an accurate reflection of Tehran's analysis of the complex circumstances the Islamic Republic of Iran finds itself in.

Tehran is convinced that it is, at the same time, both on the verge of a major strategic surge in the Middle East, South and Central Asia that will significantly strengthen the Tehran-led Islamic Bloc, and on the eve of a major confrontation with the US. This dichotomy in Iranian policy is the outcome of the Mullahs' apprehension that once Washington realizes the gravity of the strategic setback the presently unfolding Islamist surge will bring about, the US will most likely react, perhaps even with force, to reverse it.

Tehran presently believes that the likelihood of the implementation and realization of their grand design -- the consolidation of a functioning and strategically viable Islamic

Bloc -- has markedly improved as of late December as a direct outcome of the elections results in Turkey -- the unprecedented victory of the Islamists. Even though it is still uncertain that the Islamists will lead Turkey's next government, Tehran considers their mere winning the plurality of votes, a strong endorsement of its own analysis of the present situation and emerging trends in the Muslim World.

However, Tehran's world view and strategic perception are not based on a single event, important as it may be, but on a careful analysis of emerging trends and long-term forecasts. This analysis has recently pointed out the approaching moment of crisis when the West might attempt to actively contain the strategic surge of the clerical regime in Tehran. This development is so important that Tehran is actively considering the launch of preemptive and preventive terrorism in order to contain the US ability to react to the strategic developments in the Muslim World in a proper and timely manner.

On December 26, 1995, a newspaper expressing the views of Iran's Spiritual Leader Ali Khamene'i urged the launching of a world wide campaign of anti-US terrorist attacks. '"The first step is for parliament to allocate a special budget to help and-American liberation movements around the world so they can use it at their own discretion to attack US interests in any corner of the world. This will be a first step in a legitimate preemptive action against Washington's plans for sabotage and terrorist activities against Iran."

Although the formal excuse for this call to action was the US recent funding of effort to destabilize the Iranian regime, the call to action was motivated by a major strategic requirement -the urgent need to forestall US-led efforts to reverse the Islamists' strategic gains. These gains were dramatically demonstrated in the results of the elections in Turkey on the previous day -- hence the publicly expressed sense of urgency.
Indeed, the December 25 parliamentary elections in Turkey are of crucial importance to the long-term strategic posture of Eurasia.

With all the votes counted, the Islamist Welfare Party (RP) won with 21.32 percent of the votes. The Motherland Party (ANAP) came second with 19.66%, while Prime Minister Tansu Ciller's True Path Party (DYP) had 19.20%. Significantly, these results come in the aftermath of the 1994 local elections in which the RP had major achievements in elections to local governments, regional councils and municipalities, including Ankara. The RP has a very successful track record in handling domestic and local issues. The Islamist local government administrations are considered (relatively) very clean and corruption free. Their version of Islamic populism means caring for the underprivileged and having their ear open to grassroots opinions and desires. At the same time, the Islamists have refrained from enforcing strict Islamic codes or interference with the economy -- thus proving that they are not crazy' as their opponent portrayed them to be. Inespective of the future Turkish government, for there are efforts to have an ANAP-DYP coalition in order to block the RP from reaching power, the Islamists are bound to influence Turkey's policy. As the leader of the largest party in parliament, Necmettin Erbakan will at the very least be the speaker/ chairman of parliament -- a most powerful position in Turkish politics. Furthermore, considering the overall popular support for the Islamists -- as clearly expressed in both local elections and national parliamentary elections -- any government in Ankara will no longer be able to ignore the Islamists' point of view on both domestic and foreign issues. "From now on Turkey's view of the world and the world's view of Turkey have changed," Erbakan stated the moment the initial elections results were known The main shift in national polity strongly advocated by the Islamists is for Turkey to look eastwards into Central and South Asia as the key to national strength. The Islamists urge the revival of pan-Turkism in an ideological and economic context. They argue for Turkey to join the Tehran-led Islamic Bloc in a prominent position. This move would reduce the
adverse effect of the present Turkish-Iranian competition over influence and market shares in Central Asia. Significantly, barring the Islamic characterization, this is a policy advocated by many Turkish politicians and economic experts associated with the right wing parties as well. Others, advocate cooperation with Russia in developing Central Asia as the future of Turkey. The common denominator of these voices is a reversal of Ankara's recent emphasis on integration into the West European community and closer ties with the US. Considering the near collapse of the Turkish economy under Ciller, the voices urging transfer of attention to the East are being listened to very carefully in Ankara.

The main challenge facing the Islamists is the inherently secular character of the majority of the Turkish population The RP has long advocated gradual and moderated implementation of Islam and not drastic enforcement of Islamist way of life. Tehran is fully aware of this peculiar situation in Turkey. Therefore, the Iranian initial reaction to the Turkish elections was predictable- expecting more in foreign policy than in the domestic arena. "In view of this important development in Turkey's domestic politics, it seems that the foreign policy of this country will also change its general orientations under the Islamists' influence to a certain extent in favor of the Muslim world," Tehran said. "Experts reject the possibility that the government and nonreligious parties could ignore the existence of such a powerful Islamist party as Welfare." At the same time, Tehran cautioned that "fundamental changes resulting from this development will need a relatively long time [to materialize]."

the near term, closer strategic cooperation with Turkey constitutes the key to more than the implementation of the Iranian grand design for both a regional hegemony and a surge into Central Asia. Anew regional strategic posture involving Turkey will also help prevent the realization of the Arab-Israeli peace process and overwhelm the governments of Saudi Arabia and other Arab States of the Persian Gulf. Tehran is convinced that the strategic first step toward the drastic transformation of the Middle East is the consolidation and strengthening of a westward axis with Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Tehran recognizes that Turkey is the key to both the success and failure of its grand designs. Turkey can be the key to Western pressure on Iraq, leading to the formation of an axis comprising Turkey, a post-Saddam Iraq, Jordan and Israel. Such a bloc will encircle and isolate Syria from Iran, thus pressuring Damascus to go on with the Arab-Israeli peace process, that is, acquiesce to US regional hegemony.

The key to reversing such an eventuality is by winning over Iraq and, at the very least, neutralizing Turkey. Further more, because Iran is essentially broke, Tehran is looking for a regional dynamics that will not only reduce the economic burden away from Iran, but will actually improve the lot of Iran, Iraq and Syria.

In mid 1995, Tehran conducted complex negotiations with Ankara and Baghdad toward the establishment of such a regional arrangement. The essence of the deal orchestrated by Tehran is an improvement in strategic and economic posture for the three states. Iranian and Turkish officials also quietly raised the possibility of this regional design with several West European governments and won their tacit encouragement and support for the realization of this regional posture. The Europeans know that such a development will significantly increase the European exports to these states, will lower the price of oil for the Europeans, and will reduce US influence.

Iraq was given the tacit encouragement by both Turkey and Iran to reassert by force of arms its sovereignty over the Kurdish parts, as well as expansion of its economic activities despite the embargo. For Ankara, a direct consequence of such an Iraqi military move will be the destruction of the safe havens of the Kurdish guerrillas fighting against Turkey. Iraq will also begin a clandestine export of oil via the Turkish pipelines, thus providing Turkey with badly needed added income. A direct consequence of Turkey's integration into the regional bloc will be the reduction of US influence. The destruction of safe havens of anti-Iran Kurdish guerillas, and the marked expansion of commercial relationship with Iraq and Turkey are self-evident benefits for Iran from the emergence of the Iran-Turkey-Iraq triangle. However, for Tehran, most important is the anticipated reduction of US influence in Turkey because this will enhance Iran's ability to conduct other strategic surges. The closer relations with Iraq permits direct access from Iran to Syria and Lebanon, thus breaking the Syrian isolation and bolstering its commitment to confrontation with Israel. With growing limits to US regional capabilities, and with a consequent evaporation of the lure of massive financial "contributions" to Syria as "peace dividends," Tehran is in a unique position to reinforce its strategic alliance with Damascus and reverse the "peace process."

Indeed, Tehran moved quickly to capitalize on the specter of regional strategic change. Its first move was to exacerbate the crisis in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Khartoum and Tehran sponsored the assassination attempt on Egypt's President Mubarak, the bombing in Riyadh, and a host of lesser subversive attacks in both Egypt and Saudi Arabia. This is the beginning of a marked escalation of Islamist subversion and terrorism. The situation in Saudi Arabia was further complicated by the recent stroke and debilitation of King Fahd. Consequently, the upper echelons of the House of al Saud are immersed in an internal succession crisis which has intensified the self-destruction of the House of al-Saud -- thus making Saudi Arabia far more susceptible to Islamist subversion. The Iranian confidence in their ability to soon have a major impact on the strategic posture in the Arabian Peninsula was expressed in the Sixth International Seminar on the Persian Gulf convened in Tehran in mid December. The participants included representatives of most terrorist and subversive groups from all the states of the Arabian Peninsula. Iranian senior officials addressing the conference explained that since the strategic circumstances in the region changed, there was no longer need for the sanctions against Iraq. They stressed that the primary threat to the region is the US presence and efforts at strengthening hegemony. Tehran emphasized the importance of the European efforts to counterbalance the US uncontrolled desire for global dominance. Several European governments support the deal with Iraq and Turkey. The Iranian officials also stressed the strategic significance of the PRC-led Trans Asian Axis. For the first time, there was an Iraqi semi-official participation in the conference. An Iraqi representative discussed the urgent need to establish an Iran-led "kind of strategic alliance or at least tactical cooperation to foil the conspiracies of the US and Israel in the region."

Meanwhile, the implementation of this design was being accelerated in the fall of 1995. Most notable was the evolution in Syria's regional policy. Most important was the rapprochement between Damascus and Baghdad which was manifested in a deal on the definition of their mutual border reached in early December. The new border gives Syria sovereignty over the very productive Safiyah-39 oil field, which Iraq will hand over with all the production systems (pumps and pipes) in working order. Moreover, the opening of the Syrian-Iraqi border, with the suppression of the Kurds, revives cross-border trade, especially agricultural stuff and locally manufactured goods, which is traditionally very vibrant and profitable to both sides of the border.

For its part, Damascus demonstrated its commitment to the Iranian policy by encouraging the HizbAllah to markedly escalate the fighting in south Lebanon. The Syrian direct involvement was expressed in the transfer by the Syrian military of massive military aid from Iran to the HizbAllah camps in southern Lebanon.

Meanwhile, Ciller's Ankara was being lured into active participation in the Iranian regional design. The combination of the failure of the Turkish military incursion into northern Iraq and the growing economic crisis strengthened the Turkish commitment to this strategic course.

With Turkey's participation, it would be possible for Iran to divert oil exports from Central Asia to Iran and Turkey (building on and expanding the new pipeline system now being constructed between Azerbaijan and Turkey). This development will also provide cover for the illegal export of Iraqi oil. Essentially, closer Iranian-Turkish cooperation will provide a boost for regional economic development, Iranian recovery, and further consolidation of a regional bloc around Tehran Indeed, President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan stresses the Iranian efforts to break their isolation through expanded economic relations and raising the context of a new regional pragmatic order even at the expense of the export of fundamentalism. Kazakhstan will be willing to participate in such a regional development for as long as there is no Iranian effort to subvert the population.

By now, the summer negotiations between Tehran and Ankara have already clarified that both Turkey and Iran have a common understanding of the crucial importance of a surge into the Balkans under the banner of political Islam. The Ciller government considered the increase of Turkey's influence over the Muslims in the Balkans a major instrument to improving Turkey's overall posture in Europe. The Islamists in Turkey not only agree with this strategic analysis, but have long made the support for the Muslims in Bosnia a major priority in their revival of Islamist pan-Tuddsm. "I promise I will work for a just order, to liberate Bosnia, Azerbaijan, Chechnya and Jerusalem," read an oath Erbakan and thousands of followers recited at a historical Istanbul mosque at the start of the recent election campaign. Practically, the effective elimination of the Kurdish terrorist problem through the joint bloc with Iraq and Syria will free Turkish assets to concentrate on the Balkan issue. The outcome of the Turkish elections makes Ankara an eager and willing participant in this Islamist grand design, which gives Tehran's grand strategy a major boost and reason for optimism. In the context of political Islamism as advocated by the RP, there is no substitute to Tehran's dominance as the source of Islamic legitimacy and leadership.
Thus, for Tehran, the anticipated changes in Ankara, even if initially incremental and slow, further a regional development that, if permitted to be completed, will radically change the overall strategic posture in a region of vital importance to the West. Tehran still faces challenges, particularly the consolidation of a regional hegemony through the Islamic Bloc, itself a component of the PRC-led Trans Asian Axis, even though key member states are reluctant to become Islamic states or severe all relations with the West. Being on the verge of economic collapse, Iran is incapable of providing economic assistance to substitute for the potential loss of Western assistance. Nor can Iran provide substitute technologies to what the West has to offer.

Therefore, Iran has to resort to subversion and manipulation through terrorism, subversion and disinformation in order to build regional support or acquiescence to Iran's policies. The most successful is the Iranian approach combining waving the Islamic banner and capitalizing on inherent fears of US/
West neo-imperialism. The fear of Iran-sponsored terrorism and subversion always constitutes a further incentive for governments to cooperate with Tehran.

The remaining issue for Tehran is forestalling a US reaction to the unfolding process in the Middle East and Central Asia. Tehran is fully aware of its centrality, and this led to the recent call to preempt the US through increased support for terrorism. Although this call was presented as a reaction to recent Congressional appropriation, it is actually an expression of long-term planning of how to prevent the US/ West from interfering with the implementation of the Iranled regional surge. In the aftermath of the Turkish elections, there is a sense of urgency in Tehran to neutralize the US before it is capable of saving allies in distress, be it Turkey or Saudi Arabia, as well as the establishment of Islamic States in Egypt and Algeria. This public call for funding terrorism is no idle threat. A major International Islamist terrorist conference is planned in Tehran for around mid January 1996. The objective is to chart new strategy for world wide assault on the US and West, expand and escalate the Islamist revolutionary armed struggle. A special priority of the conference is to decide on a confrontation strategy against US/NATO forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina in order to prove that the Islamicization of Bosnia is irreversible. For Iran and its allies, Bosnia is the key springboard to Islamist terrorism and subversion in Western Europe.

Thus, even though several countries and organizations contribute to the growing destabilization of the Middle East, Central Asia and the Balkans, Tehran is the undisputed source of inspiration, instigation and leadership. Considering the magnitude and diversity of the concurrent Islamist threats, Focus on Iran believes that the only realistic way to reverse this trend before a major eruption, is the replacement of the current government in Tehran with a democratic one. The Mullahs have repeatedly proven themselves unwilling to abide by conventional international norms, and are not likely to listen to reason when major strategic gains seem within their reach. Therefore, there is no substitute to a change of government in Tehran.

Further more, for such a change of government to succeed and have a lasting effect, it must be accomplished by the Iranian people themselves, guided by pro-Western Iranian opposition leaders. It is imperative that such a change is carried out by the Iranian opposition on its own and in a legitimate way, thus ensuring popular legitimization and support for the post-Mullahs government in Tehran. It is in Iran's interest to establish democracy and free market in close cooperation with the West in order to expedite the economic recovery. Considering the dire regional strategic ramification of a lingering Mullahs' regime, it is imperative for Iran, its neighbors, and the West that this change of government in Tehran is implemented soon.

 



 

 

 

 


 

 






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