Turkey, Iran strike village in Erbil, Iraq – report “We suspect that the two sides are in coordination, because this is the first time that Turkey has bombed this region.”

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF

Turkish aircraft and Iranian artillery targeted the town of Haji Omeran in the Erbil Governorate of Iraq on Tuesday, according to Sky News Arabia.Haji Omeran is located along the Iran-Iraq border in northeastern Iraq.The district mayor of Haji Omeran, Farzang Ahmed, told Rudaw that Iranian artillery has targeted Iranian Kurdish opposition groups in the area before, but that Turkish strikes on the area were unheard of.”We suspect that the two sides are in coordination, because this is the first time that Turkey has bombed this region,” said Ahmed to Rudaw. “This region is frequently and every year under Iran’s shelling, on the grounds that they are targeting Kurdish opposition parties.”The strikes come a day after the launch of Operation Claw-Eagle, targeting Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) bases in northern Iraq.Turkey regularly targets Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, both in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast and in northern Iraq, where the group is based.

The longer Erdoğan is in power, the more Turkey looks like Iran – opinion

By following a similar policy as Iran, the Erdogan administration started to use the Palestinian-Israel case as a significant tool to obtain support from the Muslim community.

Turkey’s military support for the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Libya has increased Turkey’s hard power in the Middle East after the ongoing Syrian civil war. Whether Libya’s case will end with Turkey’s advantage depends on NATO, and most importantly the US’s approach in Libya. In the meantime, America’s maximum pressure weakens Iran, creating room for Turkey’s increased military intervention and support for militia groups in the Middle East. This increase in Turkey’s presence and influence signifies the rise of another rogue state in the Middle East, replacing Iran’s receding power. In comparing Iranian policy after 1979, when the Islamic regime came to power, with Turkish policy after the Arab Spring, the similarity between the two countries has become more apparent.Two regimes are looking to rebuild their empire in the region using Islamic ideology. According to the Syrian Organization for Human Rights, the government of Turkey is recruiting and training Syrian refugees, paying them, and sending them to Libya’s civil war. This act by Turkey reminds us of its eastern neighbor, Iran, the country that has been using Afghan refugees and paying them to fight in Iran’s proxy war in Syria. Moreover, Syrian fighters in Libya are claiming that they are there to defend Islam and liberate all of Libya from Haftar’s forces. A similar theme is employed by Afghan fighters, recruited by Iran to fight in Syria, that they are protecting the Shia faith and holy sites. In both cases, the Syrians and Afghanis are mostly undocumented refugees that were promised a way to provide a better life for their families.

Turkey and Iran’s common enemy is the Saudi Arabian regime. Both are looking to replace Saudi Arabia as representing the Muslim world. Riyadh derives its authority because it controls the holy city of Mecca. Erdogan and Ayatollah Ali Khameini support different sides of conflicts in the countries in the Middle East against Saudi Arabia, but at the same time in some war zones, they are standing against each other such as in Syria.This is not the only similarity between the Erdogan government and the Islamic Republic of Iran in recent years. In contrast with the Shah’s regime in Iran, which modeled itself on Western reforms by Ataturk in Turkey of the 1920s-30s, Erdogan now follows the Islamic regime of Iran to Islamize Turkey. Highlight the similarity in various cases in domestic policy and foreign policy help to understand the danger of Turkey’s current policy in the Middle East.Domestic policyAfter the 2018 referendum that changed Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential government system, Erdogan moved Turkey one step closer to an autocratic system. Through this maneuver, he acquired additional executive and political powers in Turkey. Erdogan is the sole decision-maker on almost every major issue, and many minor issues as well in the country. A similar process took place after the Islamic party in Iran held a referendum in 1979 to establish the supreme leader as having authority over all powers. Although there had been reservations within both countries about granting national leaders so much individual power, both leaders succeeded in overcoming resistance to significantly centralize their influence.

The Islamic party in Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution tried to diminish or smash other political parties by arresting its members and blaming them for different crimes. In a similar scenario, Erdogan attacks his opponents in Turkey and arrests many elected officials. Both countries control the media and restrict speech and have a large number of arrests of political and social activists.Turkey is changing the curriculum of school education to radical religious concepts and raising the number of Islamic schools. Data shows during Erdogan’s era in Turkey the number of Imam Hatip (‘cleric preacher’) religious schools increased from 450 in 2003 to 4,500 in 2018.One consistent facet of the domestic policy of both countries is the Kurdish question that has existed since the 1600s during Ottoman and Persian empires. Political and cultural rights, as well as struggles for autonomy and independence, have long plagued both Ankara and Tehran. Dealing with Kurds could be the most important point for both to come together and agree on some common policy.Foreign policyThe Arab Spring, which began in late 2010, gave Turkey an opportunity to increase its influence in the Middle East in ways similar to how Iran has been trying to increase its impact in the region. Turkey’s government saw this uprising as a “Turkish Spring” to help other regional countries bring Islamists to power. In Iran, Khamenei called it an “Islamic Awakening”. Thus, the Great Islamic Nation (Ummah) project has been the main agenda in foreign policy for both countries to expand their power in a region of predominantly Arab states. However, unlike Turkey, Iran started its plan along with its own Islamic Revolution in 1979, but the Arab Spring gave Iran more opportunity to increase its support for Shia militia groups in the region and to contribute to the weakening of their old rivals such as Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.By following a similar policy as Iran, the Erdogan administration started to use the Palestinian-Israel case as a significant tool to obtain support from the Muslim community.After increasing interference within the region, Turkey lost many of its alliances and became adversarial with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE. However, Turkey’s soft power was, in some contexts, successful for increasing Turkey’s hegemony in the region before the Arab Spring. Turning from soft power to hard power again in dealing with Middle Eastern countries isolated Turkey from the rest of the region on the one hand. On the other hand, Turkey’s changing foreign policy, from trying to be a member of the EU to being closer to the Middle East, turned Turkey away from Western countries, although the EU still needs Turkey as an oil corridor alternative, in case the Russian oil source became unreliable. However, Turkey has only managed to establish and maintain strong relations with Qatar, including a military presence on that small island state. Qatar has found itself, for its part, isolated in the Gulf region, the target of an ongoing diplomatic dispute arising from its relations with Turkey and Iran.Both the Islamic regime of Iran and the Erdogan government in Turkey use soft power to win the hearts and minds of Muslims across the globe. The increasingly significant rivalry though is over African countries, where Iran’s and Turkey’s humanitarian aid, conferences, religious activities, political events, and educational scholarships have increased influence among African Muslim populations. In addition, Pakistan Shi’ite and Sunni communities are divided in supporting both Iran and Turkey’s policies and global presence.Whether Turkey will be another rogue state in the region, depending on how long Erdogan’s stay in power with his rebuilding Ottoman Empire power policy, also who will replacing him in any chance of change in Turkey.The writer is a PhD student at Virginia Tech. Her research focuses on security and stability in the Middle East.