Defence & Arms
Ankara's Fears of the Military Option against Iran
By Lale Sarıibrahimoğlu, Zaman 27/4/07
Apr 30, 2007, 13:27

The meeting between Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana in Ankara on April 25 and 26 should be evaluated from a viewpoint in which Turkey sees the benefits of such meetings as an attempt to avoid disputes that could turn into armed conflict.


The US administration has not ruled out a military option against Iran -- even if it stands as a last resort -- if Tehran continues challenging the international community and acquires nuclear arms under the guise of its ongoing policy of constructing nuclear reactors for what it claims are peaceful purposes.


The two-day-long Iran-EU meeting that took place in Ankara and ended yesterday with the aim of trying to convince Iran to halt its ambitious nuclear program, which Tehran is pursuing through uranium enrichment, was important for Turkey in contributing to the resolution of the dispute peacefully before the US may be forced to use military means to end the standoff.


Similarly, Ankara fears economic sanctions if Iran does not agree to hold tangible talks with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, to end the five-year-long nuclear standoff.


Most of Turkey's trade to Central Asia goes through Iran. But ongoing Iranian resistance to Western pressure to halt its uranium enrichment program may possibly end up in economic sanctions that obviously will put the heat on Ankara.


Ankara's nightmare scenario


A senior Turkish diplomat states that despite the existing but limited sanctions imposed on Iran coupled with further ones, Ankara has to act with the international community.


"There is no question mark on this Turkish policy," stated the same diplomat, while simultaneously raising Ankara's fear that Tehran's policy does not hint at a resolution of its dispute with the international community through peaceful means.


But if the time comes for the US administration to declare "You are either with us or against us" to its allies, this will put Turkey to a serious and difficult choice.


Thus, Turkey has primarily been seeking to contribute to a resolution through peaceful means for Iran's nuclear standoff and hopes not come to the point of making the difficult choice of taking sides in the event of military action, said a Turkish government official.


Ankara, which itself is seeking to build nuclear energy plants, accedes to every nation's right to pursue a nuclear program for peaceful purposes. But Ankara has dismissed any efforts at building nuclear arms on its doorstep.


Gen. Ergin Saygun, the deputy Turkish chief of general staff, stated during his address to the American-Turkish Council (ATC) late in March that Ankara wants a nuclear-free Middle East.


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced on April 9 that his country could now produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale while declaring this day as a nuclear victory for his country. Nonetheless, doubts have been cast on Iran's claims that it can produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Russia and the US as well as Israel, however, have played down Tehran's claims.


Iran's Bushehr nuclear power station, being built by Russia's Atomstroyexport, which is said to be near completion, has been the source of the international dispute with the US and other Western countries with concerns that Tehran could use the Bushehr facility to further its ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons capability. Bushehr, Iran's first reactor, is being built under an estimated $1 billion contract signed in 1995.

Source: Ocnus.net 2007