Turkey’s strange ties with Iran, still presented as a significant pillar to the region’s stability, have deteriorated into virtual unacknowledged warfare, with two countries literally waging a proxy war beyond their borders in the region.
Throughout the last century, Iran and Turkey had difficult times to understand how they relate to each other but couldn’t risk severing ties despite numerous confrontations over a wide range of regional issues. In the past few years, Turkish government officials used a treaty signed between Ottoman and Iranian delegates in the city of Qasr-e Shirin to describe how the borders of the two countries have remained unchanged since the agreement was signed in 1639, a widely accepted myth.
Turkish officials frequently refer to the Qasr-e Shirin agreement to illustrate how their relationship is solid and based on mutual respect. Since the famous agreement, six states have been established in both countries (two in Turkey and four in Iran) and the borders had changed for ten times, the last time in 1931. Presenting the Qasr-e Shirin myth as a cover for a number of wars the two countries fought in the past four centuries also characterizes today’s relationship between Iran and Turkey.
While Iranian political and military officials are unrestrained in their critical remarks about Turkey, often tantamount to threats, Turkish officials are much softer while talking about their relationship, emphasizing the importance of cooperation between the two nations. It is unclear how false description of ties helps prevent further confrontation at a time when the two nations are even fighting a proxy war in Syria, where more than two years of civil war has left at least 100,000 people dead, mostly civilians.
When Turkey kicked off its ambitious foreign policy in the region under the leadership of its popular prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his then adviser and later Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu tried to assure the neighboring countries that Turkey’s rise is peaceful and that it only aims to advance peace in the region. Davutoğlu’s goal was to cultivate relations among countries in Turkey’s vicinity by abolishing visa requirements, creating free trade zones, and constantly holding high-level political consultations. Deepening ties with Iran was a cornerstone of this project that is now crumbling after Iran has started to sabotage Turkey’s interests in the region.