Iran has issued a warning to Turkey that its trade ties will be in jeopardy if Ankara does not change its policies towards Syria, Muslim secularism and the NATO anti-missile shield.
The military adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini, Maj.-Gen. Yahya Rahim-Safavi, claimed in an interview on Saturday that Turkey will face trouble from its own people as well.
Safavi told the semi-official Mehr news agency in what appeared to be an ultimatum, “If Turkish political leaders fail to make their foreign policy and ties with Iran clear, they will run into problems. If, as they claim, they intend to raise the volume of contracts with Iran to the $20 billion mark, they will ultimately have to accommodate Iran.”
Accommodating Iran apparently begins with removing the NATO early-warning system installed in September on Turkey's shore. Tehran made it plain that it sees the installation as a U.S. defense for Israel against Iranian missile counter-attacks, in case the Jewish State should decide to eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat in the region.
“I think the Turks are treading a wrong path,” said Rahim-Safavi. “It might very well be that the path was set for them by the Americans.”
The Iranian official also slammed Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent tour of the “Arab Spring” nations that have overthrown their governments – Egypt, Tunisia and Libya – in what appears to be the deepest shakeup in the region since the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
Iran, competing with Turkey for leadership in the region, is racing to cement its own influence in the Mediterranean basin even though the two have maintained close ties over the past several years.
“The Turks have so far committed a few strategic wrongs,” he said. “One was Erdogan's trip to Egypt and his presentation of the secular model there. This fact was unexpected and unimaginable since the Egyptian people are Muslims.”
In fact, Erdogan promoted an inclusive government model that had previously been announced at the outset of Cairo's Tahrir Square Revolution – one in which citizens of other faiths would be included in government affairs.
The idyllic concept, however was soon dropped in Egypt, however, with many of the 72 million Muslims returning to harassing their 8 million Coptic Christian neighbors.
Lacing his remarks with much anti-Israel sentiment, Erdogan told Egyptians the Turkish model of democratic government had served Ankara well, and could do the same for Cairo.
Erdogan has meanwhile urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to implement reforms and halt the violent government crackdown on grassroots protesters that so far has resulted in more than 2,900 dead – not counting those missing and “disappeared.” Failing that, Erdogan has vowed to implement sanctions against Turkey's neighbor and ally, in order to pressure Assad into halting the deadly violence. He predicted that ultimately, the Syrian president will eventually be deposed.