“Nuclear-armed Iran, US missile defense could topple Turkey’s balancing act”

“Nuclear-armed Iran, US missile defense could topple Turkey’s balancing act”
September 25-27, 2009
     In a chapter on Turkey in the Stimson Center’s Unblocking the Road to Zero project, Henri J. Barkey argues that a regional arms race triggered by an Iranian nuclear weapon could strengthen nationalist sentiment in Turkey for nuclearization. Barkey writes that despite Ankara’s efforts to strengthen ties with Tehran and establish itself as a “gateway between East and West”, a nuclear-armed Iran would force Ankara to either a) go nuclear despite the technical hurdles and the risk of damaging ties with the US and Europe; or b) strengthen its existing security ties with the US and Europe, perhaps while engaging in regional diplomacy to isolate Tehran (Stimson Center).
     Ankara, which was initially expected to host the upcoming P5+1-Iran talks, recently announced its intention to spend at least $1 billion on a missile defense system, likely from the US (Global Security Newswire). This has sparked debate in Turkey over the negative implications for Turkey’s close ties with Iran and how much control the US would have over such systems (Journal of Turkish Weekly). Although the purchase has not been linked with Washington’s new missile defense system [previously covered here], Yigal Schleifer suggests that participation in a theater missile defense plan could strengthen Turkey’s position in NATO and accelerate EU accession (Eurasianet).
     Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced plans to visit Tehran next month to discuss the nuclear issue. Erdogan voiced his opposition to any military strike against Iran and argued that Israel’s nuclear program should also be scrutinized (Agence France-Presse).
Stimson Center | Global Security Newswire | Journal of Turkish Weekly | Eurasianet | Agence France-Presse

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