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Turkey Vs. Iran

The Regional Battle for Hearts and Minds

In a speech last August, Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, who was Iran's chief justice from 1999 to 2009 and is now a member of the Guardian Council, argued that "arrogant Western powers are afraid of regional countries' relations with [Iran]." He went on to assert that, in their fear, those same powers were backing "innovative models of Islam, such as liberal Islam in Turkey," in order to "replace the true Islam" as practiced by Iran.

Leaving aside his conspiratorial tone, recent developments in the Middle East have somewhat confirmed Shahroudi's concerns. The Arab Spring has heightened the ideological tension between Ankara and Tehran, and Turkey's model seems to be winning. Last spring, Iran often claimed that the Arab revolutions were akin to the Iranian one decades before and would usher in similar governments. Yet in Tunisia and Egypt, for the first time, leading figures in mainstream Islamist parties have won elections by explicitly

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