The Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan promised the Obama administration that Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s visit to Ankara Friday, Nov. 1, was just “routine,” and had nothing to do with a thaw in relations.
Washington and Riyadh were therefore all the more outraged to discover – from debkafile’s exclusive report of Nov. 1 – that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Zarif had just signed an accord covering intelligence cooperation between their governments.
This Turkish-Iranian accord precludes activities by agents of third nations for gathering intelligence on Iran from Turkish soil.
Shortly after our story was released, the Iranian Ambassador to Turkey, Alireza Bigdel, confirmed it with an admission that intelligence cooperation between Turkey and Iran is in ”very, very good shape” – reaching a level “that should be between strong neighbors and brothers.”
He then asked rhetorically: “Why do they not like it when Turkish and Iranian intelligence agencies cooperate? They expect Turkey [a member of NATO] to have good cooperation with Mossad or the CIA. There is that side to it. Turkish and Iranian agencies always cooperate and so they should. It is normal for neighbors to have that, but they treat it with doubt.”
Ankara starts disrupting Syrian rebel supplies
The burgeoning rapprochement between Ankara and Tehran has given the US and Saudi Arabia another cause for concern: It will very soon be extended to Damascus. At some point, Iran will insist on Erdogan going back to speaking terms with Syrian ruler Bashar Assad.
A high-placed source in Washington said that Turkey and Iran are moving so fast to mend their fences that he would not be surprised to hear that secret talks were underway on understandings for settling two prickly Syrian war issues:
1. Closing down the rebel Free Syrian Army’s rear bases in Turkey. It is obvious to Washington and Riyadh that Ankara will soon have to shut down the rebel FSA’s logistic infrastructure and supply bases for the sake of the big plans Tehran has laid for rebuilding their economic ties.
But the Turks were already jumping the gun.
Thursday, Nov. 7, a cargo truck full of rocket heads, bazookas, missiles, bombs and guns for one of the rebel groups was seized in the southern province of Adana near the Syrian border. A total of 1,200 rocket warheads were seized.
Shutting down Turkish export routes through Israel
Wednesday, Nov. 6, a senior Iranian official spoke of boosting trade with Turkey to $35 bn in the near future. Abdolhamid Assadian, Director-General of the Office for Trade Exchanges with Europe and the US at Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization, held Turkey up as a good transit route for introducing Iranian goods to Europe and marketing them.
The second price tag attached to this prize is the shutting down of the routes Israel opened up in the last year for shipping Turkish exports to the Persian Gulf.
Iran believes it is becoming feasible to redirect Turkish goods to their pre-war routes via Syria and sees how this can be done.
Tehran points to the Syrian army and rebel commanders forging local ceasefire understandings in extensive areas of the country, and proposes expanding those arrangements by gaining permission from rebel commanders to let Turkish goods convoys pass through the pacified areas – against agreed toll payments.
Such arrangements, the Iranians calculate, will serve additionally to draw rebel forces away from their dependence on Saudi assistance and also dry up the kingdom’s intelligence sources in Syria.
A shared Kurdish dilemma
2. Resolving Turkey’s Kurdish dilemma. As the Turkish MIT intelligence agency enters into cooperative ties with Iran, it faces a dilemma.
Iran is supplying the Syrian PYD Kurdish militia fighting al Qaeda forces on Syrian-Turkish and Syrian-Iraqi borders. This is the problem: The Syrian PYD is an operational branch of the Turkish PKK (the separatist Kurdish Workers Party). While Ankara is anxious to beat Al Qaeda away from its borders, it is loath to see the Kurdish movement strengthened.
Gen. Qassem, Soleimani, Commander of Al Qods and Iranian forces in the region, and MIT’s Hakan Fidan are seen as the only figures capable of coming up with a creative solution. Getting them together in Iran to hammer out the issue would in itself be a feather in Tehran’s cap and move Turkey right out of the Arab Sunni front ranged against the Assad regime.
Certain circles in Washington were this week referring to “a new pragmatism, which is forcing Turkey to return to its zero-problems-with-neighbors policy by trying to mend fences with regional countries it has been at odds with.”
This certainly applies to the Turkish reconciliation with Iran, but what about the United States and Saudi Arabia?