Jul 22, 2016

Will Turkey's Failed Coup Push Erdogan Toward Iran, Russia?

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks after an emergency meeting of the government in Ankara, Turkey, on Wednesday. (AP)

(U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT)—Along with its many implications at home, the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey may have important repercussions on Ankara's foreign policy, especially regarding Syria....

The real pressure for a policy shift comes from external factors, including terrorist attacks blamed on IS, the struggling revolution in Syria and the vital importance of economic and political ties with regional heavyweights such as Russia and Iran at a time when relations with the West have soured.

The coup turbulence is likely to affect the list of Erdogan's foreign friends as he drags Turkey even faster down the road of an authoritarian, party-state rule. One should have no doubts that Erdogan this week kept a tally of which countries condemned the coup attempt, which kept silent and which waited to see who would prevail. The support of two countries—Russia and Iran, both Turkey's rivals in Syria—must be thickly underlined in his book now.

Unlike Ankara's Western allies, Iran did not wait for the coup's failure to speak up. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif voiced support for the government in Twitter messages in the early hours of the unrest. In a subsequent phone call, President Hassan Rouhani told Erdogan the coup attempt was "a test to identify your domestic and foreign friends and enemies."...

The most significant prospect in the coup aftermath is the possibility of further rapprochement with Russia and Iran to settle regional problems. The two Turkish pilots who downed the Russian jet are reportedly among the arrested putschists, which could help to expand the revived dialogue with Moscow.

In sum, Erdogan has two options on Syria: to maintain the status quo and ride the wave of solid nationalist-conservative support, or to take further steps toward change by boosting cooperation with Russia and Iran. The second option merits stronger consideration, given the additional external factors at play....

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