Iran criticized Turkey on Tuesday for agreeing to allow NATO to station an early warning radar in the southeast of the country, near its border with the Islamic Republic.
The Associated Press reported that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed the defense system was meant to protect Israel against Iranian missile attacks.
“The missile defense shield is aimed at defending the Zionist regime,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as having said in an address to the nation on state TV. “They don’t want to let our missiles land in the occupied territories (Israel) if one day they take action against us. That’s why they put it there.”
Turkey agreed to host the radar in September as part of NATO’s missile defense system aimed at countering ballistic missile threats from neighboring Iran.
AP reported that Ankara claims the shield doesn’t target a specific country and had even threatened to block the deal if Iran was explicitly named as a threat. However, the deal has further deteriorated the already tense relations between the two countries.
The specific cause of tension has been the disagreement over the Assad regime’s brutal suppression of demonstrations in Syria.
Iran’s support for Assad is in part repayment for the fact that Bashar Assad’s father, Hafiz Assad, was the only major Arab leader who supported Iran during the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s. Turkey, on the other hand, has condemned Syria for its violent crackdown on protesters and a few weeks ago announced that it has broken off talks with Damascus.
In his speech Tuesday, Ahmadinejad said his government has conveyed Iran’s displeasure to Turkish officials.
“We told our Turkish friends that it was not a correct decision they did and that it’s to their detriment,” he was quoted as saying. “Such shields can't prevent the collapse of the Zionist regime.”
Ahmadinejad seemed to forget that Israel and Turkey have had their own diplomatic row in recent months.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has verbally attacked Israel time and time again, accusing it of everything from defying UN resolutions to having killed “hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.”