Haluk Gerger: Kurdish question is the binding element between Turkey and Iran

Middle East expert Haluk Gerger commented on Turkish President Erdogan’s visit to Iran, emphasizing that the fundamental common factor in Iranian-Turkish relations is the Kurdish question.

Turkish President Erdoğan went to Iran yesterday, where he was met by Iranian President Rouhani. Erdogan was accompanied by 6 ministers and MIT (Intelligence) chief Hakan Fidan. Erdoğan and Rouhani held one to one meetings, while there were also meetings between delegations. The main subjects on the agenda were Yemen, Syria, Iraq and bilateral economic relations.

Middle East expert Haluk Gerger evaluated Turkish-Iranian relations following the visit.

‘Competition and conflict is the determining factor’

Gerger recalled that relations between the two countries go back to the battle of Çaldıran and that competition and conflict are the determining factor in this relationship. He also mentioned the Shia-Sunni dispute being encouraged by the USA in the region.

Gerger said the two countries were havens of relative stability in a chaotic region, adding: “Iran has taken advantage of this chaotic environment to extend its security hinterland. It has relations with the Assad regime in Syria and the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon. Most recently it has extended this to Yemen. These are not just defensive moves, but part of efforts to be the principal protector of the minority and oppressed Shias in the region.”

‘Kurdish question is the binding element’

Gerger said the Iranian moves had discomfited Turkey, although the uniting factor between the two countries was the Kurdish question. “Opposition to the Kurds is a significant factor that encourages cooperation,” added Gerger.

He said both countries were looking to increase the volume of their regional trade and emphasised the importance of their economic relations. He said these economic relations served to ameliorate tensions between the countries.

Gerger said the following regarding Iranian intentions in Yemen: “Yemen is an important move for Iran. Saudi Arabia put down the Shia uprising in Bahrain during the Arab Spring. Now Iran is broadening its hinterland and seeking regional hegemony. Yemen is of no particular interest to Turkey as it is outside Turkey’s sphere of hegemony. It has strategic significance for Iran and threatens Saudi Arabia and the Gulf regimes. Turkey is inevitably in a position opposing Iran as it sees the Gulf as a region of logistic support.”