It had become quite obvious, even long before the end-game of ISIS had reached its culmination, that the post-Daesh era would see new geo-political alignments taking place on a scale that would necessitate burying earlier hostilities and forging new alliances. This is perhaps the most striking and defining element of power politics that dynamics of power-tussle are never static, but change across the time and space continuum.
No surprises as such happen in power-politics when ‘old enemies’ sit together and decide to confront the ‘new enemies.’ As such, while Daesh has almost been defeated, the cardinal reasons that had led to the germination of Daesh and other groups have still not sunk. Saudi Arabia is as hostile to Iran as it ever was, and to counter Iran’s increasing influence in the post-Daesh scenario, the kingdom has now started to approach, trying to recruit, Shi’ite elements in its bid to counter-balance Iranian influence in Iraq (and Syria). Iran, on the other hand, is also in the middle of strengthening its relations with one of its historical rivals in the region: Turkey.
Iran’s own manoeuvres indicate that the country is not only sensing Riyadh’s games, but also moving towards strengthening its own position by cultivating relations with its historical rival in the region, Turkey, opening new vistas of co-operation and strategic alliance.
Iran mends its Turkish connection
This way, Tehran seems to think, Iran can counteract the extent to which Riyadh can damage Iran through Iraq. Their bond is likely to be initially based upon curtailing the Kurdish influence in the region (Iraq and Syria)—something that would then not only increase Iran’s influence in Iraq, enabling it to align itself more deeply with Iraq’s Shi’ite elements, but also enable it to turn its relations with Turkey into a regional strategic alliance at some future stage.
The reason why Iran and Turkey are coming closer on the Kurdish question is not merely Turkey’s rivalry with Kurdish factions; it is also due to the fact that Kurdish outfits are potential US allies in both Syria and Iraq and source of trouble for Tehran too. Therefore, if Kurdish position can be weakened by extending co-operation to Turkey, not only would, in Tehran’s calculation, Iran’s position gain strength in Iraq and Syria, but Iran would have also have a powerful regional country on its side.
Turkish-Iranian co-operation in the on-going Gulf crisis is also one example where their interests have converged, culminating in the recent visit of Iran’s top military brass to Ankara, the first visit of its kind since 1979.
On his last visit to Iran few months ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reaffirmed Turkey’s determination to increase trade with Iran to US$30 billion annually, saying Ankara saw no obstacle to increasing cooperation with Tehran.
It is gradually becoming clear that the increasing closeness of these two players would create a strong political, security and economic bloc in the Middle East in the coming years. With Russia continually mediating between the two and providing them with building blocksof enhanced co-operation, there remains little doubt that regional politics in the post-Daesh era would be dominated by these powers.
It is also clear that the House of Saud and its allies would continue to vie for power and influence. A lot, however, depends upon the extent to which the House of Saud can cultivate Shi’ite elements in Iraq and Kurds in Syria to force the balance of power to tilt towards them.