Turkey Reaches Out to Both West and Iran

In a visit to London last week, Turkish President Abdullah Gül declared his country to be a bright spot amid Europe’s gloom: “It wouldn’t be surprising if we start talking about BRIC plus T [for Turkey].” The boast was more symptomatic of Turkey’s geopolitical ambitions than its real economic heft—in cash terms, its GDP is only half of Russia’s, the poorest BRIC nation. Still, it’s clear Turkey wants to box above its weight internationally: Gül reaffirmed Turkey’s determination to join the EU, and promised support for a NATO missile-defense system aimed at securing the continent against attack from Tehran.

At the same time that Turkey is making itself attractive to Europe, it has been busy reaching out to Iran, laying the groundwork for new negotiations aimed at defusing Tehran’s nuclear standoff with the West. Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki seems keen to revive talks with the U.S., Europe, Russia, and China: last week he proposed moving the venue for talks from Vienna to Ankara. Now, with the EU mired in debt and the U.S. beset by domestic political woes, Iran may be increasingly confident in standing up to the West, which makes Turkey even more indispensable as a go-between. Turkey might not be a BRIC yet, but it’s well on its way.

With Christopher Werth