Both Turkey and Iran are ruled by despotic, Islamist regimes. But they, of course, do have their differences. Turkey is overwhelmingly Sunni and Iran is overwhelmingly Shiite. Aside from this religious difference, Turkey is still, at least in theory, an ally of the United States and the West. It remains a member of NATO, but I’m not sure how much longer its membership in the alliance will last. In contrast, Iran is a sworn enemy of the U.S. and has been since its Islamic Revolution in 1979. So what do Turkey and Iran have in common other than the fact that they are ruled by dictators professing an Islamist ideology?
Well, one thing that unites the two countries is an intense hatred of Israel and the West. Another is the desire on the part of both countries’ regimes to assert a kind of hegemony over the Middle East region. Neither Iran nor Turkey want the role of regional hegemon to go Israel, Saudi Arabia or any other country. But of course, neither of them want the other to be the region’s primary superpower either. This can only mean that the two will inevitably conflict, right? Yes, at least to some extent. Both states, for example, support different sides in the Syrian civil war. While Turkey backs the rebels fighting against Syrian dictator, Bashar Al-Assad, the Iranian regime supports Assad’s forces, along with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, another power trying to make inroads in the Middle East. But believe it or not, the fact that the autocratic regimes of Turkey and Iran support different sides in the Syrian conflict has not led to a significant strain in relations between the two dictatorships. Why is this? Perhaps because Turkey’s Erdogan and Iran’s Islamist regime have a long-term agenda to divide the Middle East between themselves, with the former gaining dominance over the region’s Sunni states and the latter taking control over Shiite-majority territory.
A Dual Caliphate?
I believe that the ultimate goal of Turkey’s dictator, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is and always has been the creation of a new Ottoman Empire. In the short run, he wants Turkey’s sphere of influence to cover all of the Sunni-ruled states in the Middle East. In the long run, he wants complete control of these states, just like the Ottoman rulers had. Don’t think for a moment that Erdogan does not fancy himself as the caliph of a new, Turkish-dominated, Sunni Muslim empire. Furthermore, I think everyone should know that the ultimate goal of the Iranian regime is a caliphate of its own. A Shiite caliphate under the control of the Iranian mullahs.
I believe that rather than compete with each other to see who will create and rule the next Islamic caliphate, the dictators of Turkey and Iran will settle for creating two separate caliphates between themselves, simply because both of them hate the U.S., its Western allies and Israel a lot more than they hate each other. There is a historical precedent for this kind of arrangement. Before World War II broke out, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin agreed to divide Europe between themselves. This was the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the end result of which was the invasion of Poland by both dictators in addition to the Soviet invasion and conquest of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. So, if my theory is correct and history repeats itself, the dictators of Turkey and Iran will agree to divide the Middle East between themselves with Turkey taking control of the Sunni states and Iran taking control of Shiite-dominated territory in places like Iraq, Bahrain and eastern Saudi Arabia.
The first indication that such an arrangement could be taking shape may be a peace agreement in Syria that gives Assad control over Latakia, Syria’s Shiite majority region, while handing the rest of the country to groups with strong ties to Turkey. We’ll have to wait and see. I certainly don’t want the Middle East to be controlled by the dictators of Turkey or Iran. I don’t think the leaders of Israel and the Sunni Arab states want it either, so my suggestion to these leaders is to put aside their differences and engage in measures of collective security before the tyranny of the Iranian and Turkish regimes encompasses the whole region.