By Mohammad Mazhari

Losing Iran won’t help Biden in his China policy: Turkish academic

April 16, 2021 - 15:14

TEHRAN - Losing Turkey and Iran will not help Joe Biden to contain China, says Mustafa Caner, a Turkish academic.

“To contain Chinese economic power and expansion, Biden should get along with other important states,” Caner, the research assistant in the Middle East Institute at Sakarya University, tells the Tehran Times.

Former President Donald Trump’s Iran policy was an abject failure, applying maximum pressure to minimal benefit. The United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and ratcheted up sanctions on Tehran.

Iran and remaining parties in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action have started talks in Vienna to revitalize the 2015 nuclear pact.

However, pundits say, Biden is too slow to restore the deal, warning his window of opportunity is closing.

Tehran recently inked a 25-year comprehensive strategic partnership with China which raised concerns in Washington.

 In this regard the Turkish academic notes that “losing Iran will not help Biden to confront China’s expansionist policies.”

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: How do you see the Biden administration’s policies from confronting China and Russia to rapprochement with the EU? Can Biden curb Chinese economic expansion? 

I think Biden has lots of powerful challenges ahead of him and he has not shown that he is capable of dealing with them yet. For instance, Washington does not provide enough support for Ukraine against Russia. Kremlin is increasing its influence both in the Middle East (West Asia) and East Europe. Biden is not intervening in. Apart from that, to contain Chinese economic power and expansion, Biden should get along with other important states. Losing Turkey and Iran will not help him to contain China. The U.S. still acts as “the Great Arbiter of the World”, however it is lacking an adequate legitimacy ground. In order to regain its respectful position, Washington has to fuel multilateralism, empower international organizations, make diplomacy work and accommodate its rhetoric with concordant actions. Without fostering multilateralism, the U.S.-EU rapprochement cannot be fulfilled.

Q: It seems that after Biden took the reign in the White House in January Turkey has lost its importance for America. Some media outlets also claim that Turkey is approaching Israel to fill this gap. Is that right? 

A: It is not Turkey that lost its position but Israel. Israel had been enjoying full support from the Trump administration. Declaring Jerusalem as the so-called capital of Israel, legitimizing Israel’s occupation in Palestine with so-called “peace” plans, and Israel’s normalization with some Arab states were realized with Washington’s backing. With Biden coming to power, Israel partially lost that support. Washington and Tel Aviv’s Middle East (West Asia) prospects differed. For example, Biden wants to settle with Iran and Netanyahu challenges it. 
On the other hand, Turkey-U.S. relations have been problematic since the Obama administration. Trump’s era also was no picnic for Turkey. The latest U.S. sanctions against Turkey was imposed in December 2020 when Trump was in power. Harboring Fetullah Gulen, the mastermind of the failed coup attempt in 2016, and supporting PKK/YPG terrorists in Syria are the two unacceptable faults of Washington against Turkey. If Turkey wanted to fill the U.S. gap with Israel, it would have done that long ago. 

Possible Turkey-Israel rapprochement is primarily about Eastern Mediterranean and relevant regional issues. Positive messages are coming from both sides. However, this rapprochement will not clear both countries’ differences on many subjects, i.e., Iran nuclear issue, and the Israel-Palestine conflict. Turkey has always defended the peaceful nuclear rights of Iran and criticized U.S. sanctions. Turkey will continue to do so. 

Q: What will be the possible effects of Iran’s talks with other nuclear deal parties on regional balances? Can Israel and Saudi Arabia hamper the negotiation process? 

A: First of all, some (Persian) Gulf countries are strongly opposing a deal between Iran and other parties. The reason for that they think by lifting the sanctions, the U.S. is empowering Iran and this will pose a threat to Arab states in the (Persian) Gulf.

 Iran will indeed gain significant leverage in the context of its competition with other regional powers by coming to terms with JCPOA parties. Lifting the sanctions will hugely benefit Iran’s economy and that will fuel Iran’s regional instruments in the simplest terms. Israel also fears the same development. (Persian) Gulf states and Israel can limit and delay the agreement. Especially, Israel can use sabotages and assassinations in this regard. However, they cannot prevent the deal from happening. 

Q: How do you evaluate the 25-year partnership between Iran and China? Why do Americans are worried about the partnership? 

A: I think the deal is a clear message to the U.S. that the clock is ticking and it should expedite the nuclear deal process before it is too late. The Iran-China deal is a framework agreement so far. The details have not been revealed and it has not come to the Iranian Parliament yet. That makes me think that it could be a strategy to make the U.S. more careful and quicker in its steps towards Iran. Because Iran has other options. And losing Iran will not help Biden to confront China’s expansionist policies. 

Q: How does Turkey regard Chinese Belt and Road Initiative? How can it strengthen countries’ ties in the region?

A: Turkey’s approach towards “the Belt and Road Initiative” is rather positive. Ankara supports the initiative and feels glad to be a part of it. Connecting countries together in terms of their economy, will strengthen both their economy and political ties. By creating an economic dependency between countries, the belt and road initiative will prevent conflicts and boost diplomacy. It will also contribute to cultural interactions and enlarge different groups and people’s visions toward each other. Underdeveloped countries will enjoy a great deal of the project since it will help them to enhance their economy. 
 

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