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The Turkish-Iranian Alliance That Wasn't

How the Two Countries Are Competing After the Arab Spring

Turkish PM Erdogan (left) with Iranian President Ahmadinejad last September. (Courtesy Reuters)

One of the most controversial elements of Turkish foreign policy has been the attempt by the Justice and Development party (AKP) to cultivate closer ties to Iran. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rapprochement with Tehran has raised concerns in Western capitals that Ankara is drifting away from the West. Differences over Iran's nuclear program have heightened these fears. In defiance of the United States and other key NATO members, such as the United Kingdom and France, Turkey has downplayed the danger posed by Iran's nuclear policy and attempt to elude constraints imposed by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The most acute example was in June 2010, when, bucking its Western allies, Ankara voted against a new UN sanctions regime that would target Iran's military.

Worries about Ankara's eastward drift, however, exaggerate the degree of common interests between Turkey and Iran.

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