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Turkey signals major regional ambitions – Analysis

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Turkish nationalist TV station closely linked to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unearthed a 12-year card which projects Turkey’s sphere of influence in 2050 as extending from southeastern Europe to the northern Mediterranean coast and from Libya on its southern shore across North Africa, the Gulf and the Levant to the Caucasus and central Asia.

Backed by the Azerbaijani defeat of Armenia last year, TGRT, a subsidiary of Ihlas Holding, a media and construction conglomerate that won major government tenders, used the card to advance a policy that has long been the agenda of some of Mr. Erdogans’ closest advisers. .

The dissemination of the map, first published in a book written by George freidman, the founder of Stratfor, an influential U.S. business intelligence group, followed calls from Pan-Turkish daily Turkiye, The daily Ihlas which has the fourth circulation in Turkey, to take advantage of the Azerbaijani victory to create a military alliance of Turkish states.

In a country that is only second behind China as the world’s leading jailer of journalists, Ihlas Holding media would not push for a pan-Turkish, Islam-linked Turkish regional policy without at least approval tacit government.

The pressure from media groups reflects Turkey’s efforts to capitalize on the fact that Turkey’s latest geopolitical triumph with the Azerbaijanis, the Turkish-backed victory is already producing tangible results. The military victory positioned Azerbaijan, and by extension Turkey, as alternative transport route to the west this would allow the countries of Central Asia to bypass the corridors dominated by Russia or Iran.

Turkmenistan, acknowledging the changing geopolitical map, rushed in January to end a long-standing dispute with Azerbaijan and agree to joint exploitation of the Caspian Sea oil fields. The deal came on the heels of an agreement in December for the purchase from ENI Turkmenistan of 40,000 tonnes of oil per month by the Azerbaijani National Oil Company (SOCAR).

The deal could speed up the completion of a Trans-Caspian gas pipeline (TPC) which would supply the recently operational Southern Gas Corridor (SGC), bypass Russia and Iran, and supply Greece and Bulgaria via the former Soviet republic.

Last month, Azerbaijan agreed with Turkmenistan and Afghanistan to develop the Lapis Lazuli transport corridor that would connect the war-torn country with Turkey. At about the same time, Kazakhstan started to export copper cathodes to Turkey via Azerbaijan initially intended to capitalize on the position of the Caucasian nations as a transit hub.

Azerbaijan and Turkey’s new advantage sounded alarm bells among Russian and Iranian analysts with close ties to their respective governments, though TGRT’s broadcast may have been primarily intended to stir up fervor. nationalist in the country and test regional responses.

Russian and Iranian politicians and analysts appeared to take the show in that vein. Nonetheless, they were quick to note that Friedman’s projection included Russia’s soft underbelly in the North Caucasus as well as Crimea, while the Iranians took stock of the Turkish sphere of influence. would border Iran to the north, south and west.

Turkey and Ukraine have agreed in recent months to cooperate in the development of technologies with military applications related to engines, avionics, drones, anti-ship and cruise missiles, radar and surveillance systems, robotics, space and satellites. Turkey refused to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea, home of the Crimean Tartars, and criticized Russia’s support for the Ukrainian rebels.

Most Russian commentators have sought to downplay the importance of the map, leaving Andrei krasov, deputy chairman of the defense committee of the lower house of Russian parliaments to warn that if they (the Turks) want to test the strength of the Russian spirit and our weapons, let them try.

With Iran being excluded from the TGRT and Stratfors projection of Turkey’s emerging sphere of influence, Iranian officials and analysts have largely failed to respond to the relaunch of the map.

Yet Iran’s actions on the ground suggest that the Islamic Republic has long anticipated Turkey’s moves even though it was caught off guard by last year’s Azerbaijani-Armenian war.

On the one hand, Iran has sought over the past year to strengthen its military presence in the Caspian Sea and forge close naval links with the basins of other coastal states – Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

Seen from Tehran, the TGRT’s release of the Stratfor map was the latest in a series of provocative Turkish movements.

They include Mr Erdogans’ account of a nationalist poem as he attended a military parade in Azerbaijan that called for the reunification of two Iranian Azerbaijani provinces with the former Soviet republic and the Arab service’s publication of the Turkish state radio and television from an Instagram map, depicting Iran, the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, with its large ethnic Arab population distinct from Iran

The Instagram post came days after it came to light that Habib Chaab, a leader of the Arab Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz, or ASMLA, had been kidnapped in Istanbul by a cooperative Iraqi Kurdish drug lord. with Iranian intelligence services and transported to Iran.

As senior Iranian officials denounced the Turkish provocations, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency left no doubt about Iran’s true feelings.

Those with keen eyes on the territories on this side of the Aras River would do better to study history and find that Azerbaijan, especially the people of Tabriz, has always been a pioneer in the defense of Iran. . If Iran hadn’t helped you on the night of the coup, you would have had a fate like that of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, protesters chanted outside the Turkish consulate in Tabriz, the provincial capital. from Iran to East Azerbaijan.

The protesters were responding to Mr Erdogans’ poem recital and referring to the failed military coup against him in 2016 as well as the toppling of Mr Morsi in 2013 during a takeover by the Egyptian armed forces.

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