Will Turkey and Iran Unite Against U.S Sanctions?

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On Saturday, August 11th, Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif officially called on the US to abandon the practice of imposing sanctions following Trump’s announcement on increased tariffs for Turkish aluminum and steel.

The Iranian minister wrote on his Twitter:

In July, Turkey’s foreign minister also defended Iran from Washington’s sanctions. “We do not have to adhere to the sanctions imposed on a country by another country. We don’t find the sanctions right either,” Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said then.

Trump’s authorization of an increase in tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Turkey from 20% to 50% has caused the Turkish Lira to fall to an historic low of 6.62 USD, thus losing nearly 20% of its value overnight.

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The fall of the Lira and the threat of additional US sanctions has led Turkish elites and experts to ponder alternatives to deteriorating Washington-Ankara relations. Turkish President Erdogan today wrote in a New York Times editorial that the US’  “trend of unilateralism and disrespect” towards Turkey is forcing Ankara to “look for new friends and allies.” 

The latest pretext for Washington’s clamping down on Turkey is Ankara’s refusal to release American Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was arrested in the aftermath of the coup attempt in Turkey of June 2016, in response to Washington’s refusal to extradite Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of being behind the 2016 coup attempt.

Last week the US imposed sanctions on Turkey’s Minister of Justice and Minister of Internal Affairs for “serious human rights violations.” Turkish lawyers, meanwhile, have responded with a lawsuit calling for the arrest of American military officers at the Incirlik airbase, who are accused of ties with terrorist groups.

These come as part of an increasingly long chain of disagreements between the two countries which has in turn seen Turkey straddle the fence between its long-standing NATO commitments, its military operations in Syria, and the increasingly tempting – and needed – opportunities afforded by joining the Eurasian bloc’s fledgling alternative to the US’ desperate attempt to maintain hegemony. 

What Russian media have called “unprecedented pressure” from the Trump Administration in the form of numerous tariff and sanctions packages against Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, and others is progressively bringing the latter two rivals in Syria together in defiance of Washington’s aggressive policies.

The Iranian foreign minister’s statement, and in general Iran and Turkey’s increasingly joint endurance of US sanctions, are noteworthy rhetorical steps in this direction.

Russia’s role as the guarantor of neighboring Syria’s sovereignty, Moscow’s increasing attempts to mediate between actors in the Middle East, and the development of Eurasian alternatives in the region will be crucial in shaping the fate of Turkish-Iranian relations.

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