By Mohammad Mazhari

Iran and Turkey reject band-wagoning strategies: researcher

April 24, 2021 - 12:27

TEHRAN – A Turkish academic says that Western powers consider Iran and Turkey as problematic because of "their avoidance in band-wagoning strategies." 

 "Turkish procurement of S-400 tactical missile defense system and Iran's pursuit of nuclear power is presented as problematic because these states are well-known for their avoidance in band-wagoning strategies," Furkan Halit Yolcu tells the Tehran Times.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on March 24, urged Ankara not to retain Russia’s S-400 missile defense system, the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

Yolcu, the research assistant in the Middle East Institute at Sakarya University, notes that "Western powers symbolize the first ring of arms production enjoying the innovative superiority for almost over three centuries."

“The Persian Gulf has never been a safe haven for any states in the regions since the Iran-Iraq war and the 1991 (Persian) Gulf War, which produced several prolonged effects for the region with rifts not easy to repair. This atmosphere of mistrust and conflict of interest was also escalated by the great powers with military interventions such as the invasion of Iraq in 2003.”
Despite Western powers' traditional ties with some monarchies in West Asia, especially Persian Gulf Arab countries, China has succeeded to extend its influence in the region over recent years.

On March 27, Iran and China signed a comprehensive long-term cooperation document with the aim of cementing their economic and political alliance. It has raised concerns in the United States. The partnership, which is envisioned to significantly expand economic cooperation, is seen to be a great blow to Washington's efforts to suppress the Iranian economy.

Also, Beijing is planning to consolidate its ties with Arab states in the region when it comes to economic exchanges.

"The Chinese influence may reduce some of the dependence and sole U.S. authority in the region but might create further dependencies towards the East," according to Yolcu.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q:  Donald Trump inked a highly profitable arms agreement with Saudi Arabia. However, Joe Biden prefers to decrease the volume of weapon sales to the kingdom. Now, how do you assess the current U.S. administration’s policies when it comes to selling weapons to Arab monarchies like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates? 

A: The U.S. arms sales policies did not actually change in a broad perspective since the 1960s. The U.S. designated two Middle Eastern (West Asian) states as 'twin pillars' and supported them with almost the highest technology available. One thing that never changed also was the military edge provided to Israel against the Arab states. Well, yes, Donald Jr. Trump has accommodated most of the military procurement demands from the Saudi and Emirati governments, but the reason behind such huge amounts was Obama's lack of appreciation towards them. The deals have piled up during the 2nd Obama administration, and Donald Jr. Trump has approved these 'old' and 'stalled' procurement deals. President Biden acknowledged that they would maintain the F-35 deal with the Emirati government. However, the military demands of the Saudi government may be hindered under the democrat vision.

Q: How do Western powers try to control weapon deals in West Asia while they neglect Israel's nuclear arsenal, especially as they are concerned about Turkey's S-400 purchase or Iran's peaceful nuclear program?

A:  Western powers symbolize the first ring of arms production, enjoying innovative superiority for almost over three centuries. This technological edge provides comfort for Western states and their allies in the other regions while it is used as leverage against the challengers. Israel's nuclear arsenal is almost accepted by every scholar in the discipline and several international institutions, but it is never acknowledged as a disturbance to the Middle East (West Asia) military balance. However, Turkish procurement of the S-400 tactical missile defense system and Iran's pursuit of nuclear power is problematic because these states are well-known for their avoidance of band-wagoning strategies. These states tend to challenge the Bretton Woods system and the current world order. This is why the Turkish S-400s and Iranian ballistic missiles, and nuclear capacity concern the status holders.

Q: What is the impact of Turkey's move to purchase the Russian S-400 missile system on the security of the region?

A: Turkish procurement of S-400s was actually an act of balance since the country did not even have the air defense capacity of Syria for almost a decade. Turkish air defense capacity was relying on the outdated Rapier's with high risks of malfunction when needed. The Greek S-300s, Syrian S-200s, Iranian Bavar-373, and Russian S-400 in Latakia were considered a certain military problem for the Turkish aerial capacity. Thus, this move was a mere act of self-defense against the several booming threats in the region. Israel is the country that most actively use F-35s and the existence of S-400s mostly bothers only them. However, the S-400 system was in Syria for years, and the Turkish S-400 procurement should not be a particular problem for them since Israel also has functional bilateral affairs with Russia.

Q: Do you expect China to extend its military presence in West Asia besides the development of its economic ties with the countries in the region?

A: China has now the 2nd largest maritime military power in the world, with a large capacity-building process still on the run. It is widely expected by the scholarship that the Chinese influence will disperse into the Middle East (West Asia) sooner or later. The main factor that would be definitive for the Chinese involvement is going to be the Middle Eastern (West Asian) states' demand towards a Chinese military existence in the region. The Chinese influence may reduce some of the dependence and sole U.S. authority in the region but might create further dependencies towards the East. The Middle Eastern (West Asian) states are mostly aware that partnerships and alliances with great powers bring along a lot of responsibilities and, at the domestic level, more interventions. Most Middle Eastern (West Asian) economies have welcomed the Chinese benefits while they are hesitant to accept the Chinese military presence in the region. I expect China to first become militarily engaged to Africa before the Middle East (West Asia). The vulnerabilities and the opportunities for foreign intervention are much higher and less costly for China in Africa.

Q: What is the main reason behind competition between Persian Gulf Arab countries in purchasing arms?

A: The Persian Gulf has never been a safe haven for any states in the regions since the Iran-Iraq war and the 1991 (Persian) Gulf War, which produced several prolonged effects for the region with rifts not easy to repair. This atmosphere of mistrust and conflict of interest was also escalated by the great powers with military interventions such as the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

 The great powers contributed to the conflict more than thought for resolutions. These reciprocal escalation mindsets naturally led to a security dilemma in the region where states tried to maximize their power with an offensive realist perspective. However, the increase in the offensive military capacity disturbed the offense-defense balance in the region, and this gap posed higher threats for small states like Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. These countries demanded great power military presence in the region, which almost brought the Persian Gulf to a state of pre-war preparation zone. The recent tensions between Iran and the U.S. keep these countries on edge and push them for more security bargains. All in all, if there was one single reason behind this situation, it would be the Persian Gulf states' ambition towards each other's territorial integrity and the conflicts of interest between them such as border issues, territorial disputes, and maritime security.

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