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Iran and NATO's Missile Shield in Turkey

Ali Valigholizadeh, Expert on International and Geopolitical Issues (source: Iran Review)

Geopolitical & Security Challenges

Perhaps no other regional country is as concerned about NATO's missile shield in Turkey than Iran because this is a special issue for Tehran. The defense (or offense) plan is being executed by the West and the United States as the archenemy of Iran, on the one hand. On the other hand, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been named as the main goal of the plan and has been singled out as the main source of missile threat against Europe.

Two issues should be taken into account. Firstly, Iran lacks the missile power to target the Western Europe and will not develop intercontinental missiles, at least, in the foreseeable future. Secondly, various reports of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have emphasized on the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear and missile programs and no evidence has been produced to prove deviation toward a military program. Therefore, the main threat that the West feels from Iran is more a result of the Iranian nation's determination rather than being of a military nature. In other words, the main goal of the West in depicting Iran as a source of threat is to prevent geographical and spatial expansion of Islamic and revolutionary ideas of Iran to other Middle Eastern countries which would be in total contrast to strategic interests of the West, especially the United States and Israel.

Geopolitical and security challenges posed to Iran by NATO's missile shield in Turkey can be discussed from various angles. One of them is developing relations between Tehran and Ankara. The United States is apparently disgruntled with those relations and some experts maintain that by establishing the missile shield in Turkey, Washington is trying to cause tension in Tehran's relations with Ankara. The negative vote of Turkey to international sanctions against Iran has been construed by Washington as a sign of deepening relations between Tehran and Ankara which is at odds with national security of the United States. Perhaps this is why some Western analysts maintain that Iran's recent approach to Turkey is a tactical policy by Tehran to reduce heavy consequences of Western sanctions on domestic economy. Thus, Tehran is trying to bypass sanctions by deepening regional relations, especially with Turkey.

Undermining Iran's strategic, political and economic ties with Russia is another possible outcome of NATO's missile shield in Turkey. This is of special importance because despite Russia's past opposition to establishment of the US missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia has given tacit nod to establishment of the new missile shield in Turkey. Russian officials had announced earlier that if according to the White House officials, the main goal of NATO's missile shield were to head off Iran's missile threats, they would have no objection to establishment of such a shield even in Azerbaijan or Turkey.

In addition, the most important issue to be taken into account is security threat posed to Iran's national security by establishment of NATO's missile shield close to Iran's northwest border. There is no necessary logical relationship between Iran's missile advances in recent years and deviation in Iran's nuclear program. However, enhancing a country's deterrent power is a right of all countries provided that it does not pursue aggressive military goals. This has not been the case in Iran during the past few centuries.

From a geopolitical point of view, Turkey is not only an axis for geopolitical developments in the region, but also a geostrategic player. As put by Zbignew Brzezinski, active geostrategic players are those states which aim to cause changes in geopolitical situation of areas around them. Geopolitical axes are also states which are important not due to their power, but because of their sensitive situation. Sometimes, mere existence of an axis state can be of major political and cultural consequences for a neighbor which is also an active geostrategic player. Therefore, Ankara's entry into the new game is of a purely geopolitical nature which stems from the country's geographical and political situation in the region.

At present, given its multifaceted foreign policy and its role as a geopolitical axis, Ankara aims to take a totally cautious approach to this game and fulfill its geostrategic part in the intense rivalry among big powers. Therefore, consequences of establishment of NATO's missile shield in Turkey for Iran's national security should not be ignored. Iranian experts maintain that recent justifications by Ankara to explain presence of the missile shield on its soil are a mockery of diplomatic maneuvers by which Turkish statesmen are trying to make the most of the existing opportunities.

More By Ali Valigholizadeh:

About Iran Review: Iran Review ( is the leading independent, non-governmental and non-partisan website - organization representing scientific and professional approaches towards Iran's political, economic, social, religious, and cultural affairs, its foreign policy, and regional and international issues within the framework of analysis and articles.

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