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Rationalization of Turkey-Iran Relations: Prospects and Limits

This article examines Turkish-Iranian relations in the 2000s, when the two countries initiated an unprecedented rapprochement. It argues that modification of foreign policy paradigms in Turkey and Iran led to the rationalization of bilateral relations that paved the way for improvement of economic and political ties between the two states. In addition to the rationalization, a supportive regional context helped them expand their relations. However, structural differences prevent the Turkish-Iranian rapprochement from turning into a strategic partnership. Moreover, restructuring of the regional context and rise of the specter of a conflictual relationship, which is still alive, threaten the future of Turkish-Iranian relations.

Rationalization of Turkey-Iran Relations Prospects and Limits
The process of rationalization helped diversify the economic relations between the two countries by adding new dimensions, namely direct investments, energy cooperation, and tourism, to the bilateral economic interactions.
 

Parallel to Turkey’s “new” Middle East policy that started in the early 2000s,1 Turkey-Iran relations have gone through an unprecedented period of rapprochement. Ideological and security issues that dominated the relations between the two neighbors have been gradually replaced by pragmatic considerations on each side. A number of developments both at the state level and regional level have promoted pragmatism. The ensuing improvement of Turkish-Iranian relations has been crowned by a rapidly increasing volume of economic interactions between the two countries as well as security and diplomatic cooperation on a number of issues. In addition to the upgrading of bilateral ties, the two countries’ regional approaches related to the Palestine issue, preservation of territorial integrity of Iraq, Iran’s right to have “peaceful” nuclear technology, etc. have ostensibly converged. However, a number of developments that took place in 2011, including the revolt in Syria, the escalation of terror activities perpetrated by the PKK, and the Turkish decision to host US radar system, have overshadowed Turkey-Iran relations.2

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