ANKARA: Iran and Missiles

Star website, Turkey
Dec 20 2012

Iran and Missiles

Commentary by Sedat Laciner

[Translated from Turkish]

In Syria Al-Asad is acting like anyone stuck in a corner would -using
whatever he has to hand out of fear for his life. And what exactly
does he have to hand but missiles that can easily reach Turkey plus
chemical warheads for these missiles to carry. Worse, there are regime
actors other than Al-Asad who can also use these missiles and chemical
weapons. Indeed, news has been filtering in recently of missiles being
taken out of their depots and being made ready. In fact, there are
reports that Scuds have already been used in the north of Syria.

Given the uncertain and risk-filled environment, Turkey could not be
expected not to take measures. Even if the risk is just 1 per cent any
serious state has to take precautions. Besides, the possibility that
Syria might use chemical weapons and missiles is too high to be taken

The most significant measure taken by Turkey against any possible
attack was to ask NATO to deploy Patriot missiles for defence.
Patriots are already deployed in Jordan, Greece, Israel, Saudi Arabia
and the UAE. In our region Russia has developed the S-300 [SA-10 or
SA-N-6 Grumble] series of missiles, which do the same job, for its own
defence. Among those regional states that own S-300s are Armenia,
Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Greece, Syria, Ukraine and Croatia. Furthermore,
Iran is also working hard to obtain these missiles from Russia. In
short, only Turkey does not have an anti-missile defence system.

In short, given this picture, it is a perfectly natural development
for Turkey to try and obtain an anti-missile system, even if it is
just on loan from NATO. However, both Iran and Russia have objected
strongly to this. Russia’s objection seems to have mellowed following
Putin’s visit. However, Iran’s objections are continuing and growing.

Iran’s Reaction

First of all Iran’s Defence Minister Ahmed Vahidi said they were
against Patriot being deployed to Turkey. Afterwards, Iran’s Chief of
the General Staff Gen Hasan Firuzabadi really upped the dosage of
criticism saying that deployment of Patriot to Turkey might spark a
world war. Meaning, even if Iran does not possess even one offensive
missile, even if Iran were not one of the active sides in the civil
war in Syria, you are still going to take Firuzabadi’s words
seriously. But this is not the case. Iran is the country in the Middle
East that is making the largest investments in missile systems.

Ankara is used to this kind of criticism now. Iran is not happy with
Turkey’s foreign policy. They do not use their Foreign Ministry to
express this displeasure though because neither are they inclined to
sever relations with Turkey completely. That is why some people stand
up and slam Turkey from time to time as if voicing their personal
opinion. But this method has now reached unacceptable proportions.
Indeed, after Iran’s Chief of the General Staff’s comments Prime
Minister Erdogan felt compelled to say: “This Chief of the General
Staff stands up and makes these kinds of statements from time to time
as you all know. When we ask the people in charge about this they say,
‘It is his personal opinion.’ What do you mean, his own personal
opinion? There is a way of doing things and it is not right for me as
prime minister to be addressed in this manner!”

In other words Turkey is telling Iran: “We are onto your game. Instead
of all this innuendo and beating about the bush, chose a more direct
form of communication.” But it not at all easy for Iran to do this.
There are two basic reasons why: First off, there is not one Iran but
several. Ahmadinezhad and Iran’s Foreign Ministry are more temperate
concerning Turkey. However, the structure we can call Iran’s “deep
state” takes a more ideological and sectarian look at matters. This in
turn takes the differences in opinion between both states to a
dangerous level. Another reason is that despite Iran’s opinion to the
contrary the country is actually growing more and more dependent on T
urkey as sanctions grow in number.

Perhaps the most important risk for the future of the region is growth
in the differences between Turkey and Iran and these differences
taking on different dimensions. Such a polarization could have fatal
consequences for both countries and the region.