News / Middle East

Iran, Turkey Vie to Be Palestinians' Champion

In the Middle East Iran has always presented itself as the major champion of the Palestinian cause. However, analysts say that Turkey has stolen some of that mantle with the Gaza flotilla incident. As VOA senior news analyst Gary Thomas reports, Turkey is engaged in a competition with neighboring Iran for regional influence.

When a flotilla filled with international activists that had sailed from Turkey was attacked by an Israeli commando team, Turkish condemnation was swift. Iran's was slow in coming.

Analyst Reva Bhalla of the private intelligence firm STRATFOR says Iran is not happy at being upstaged by Turkey.

"They don't particularly like the idea of Turkey stealing the show," said Bhalla. "And by that I mean Iran has spent the past several years trying to claim this mantle of being the true defender of the Palestinians while exposing the hypocrisies of the major Arab powers."

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for the elimination of the Jewish state, and Iran has long portrayed itself as a key supporter of the Palestinians.

Former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns tells VOA that Iranian support for the Palestinians has been more talk than action.

"My sense is that Iran has been quite hypocritical, the Iranian government, in asserting interest in the Palestinians," said Burns. "Iran has never done anything to help the Palestinians. But it talks this game because it wants to increase its credibility in the Arab world."

Although both Muslim majority countries, theocratic Iran and secular Turkey have had markedly different approaches to the state of Israel. Turkey was the first Muslim state to recognize Israel, and Israel has been a major arms supplier to Turkey. But Turkish-Israeli relations started to sour after Turkey's sharp criticism of the 2009 Israeli military incursion into Gaza.

Reva Bhalla says the attempt to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza has greatly complicated things for both Israel and the United States.

"Israel's major priority right now is to ensure the blockade of Gaza. If it relents it redefines the power balance in the region at a time when Turkey's influence is surging through the Arab street," said Bhalla. "And on the other hand, the harder line it takes on the issue the more it risks alienating the U.S. And this comes at a time when Turkey's relationship with Israel is at a historical low point."

But analysts say there is suspicion in the region about the Iranian-Turkish competition for influence. Under Saddam Hussein, Arab Iraq was a strategic counterweight to Iran. But Iraq was decimated by the U.S. invasion of 2003 and is currently consumed by internal political power struggles. Nicholas Burns says that has left the Arab world particularly suspicious about Iran's ambitions in the region.

"I think the larger issue for most Arabs is they see Iran's growing military power as a threat and as unhelpful in an already volatile region, the Middle East," said Burns. "And here's very little trust between the Arab world and Iran. That's not going to change because the Iranian government holds press conferences about its support for the Palestinians."

Analysts say the Gaza incident could slow U.S. attempts to slap new U.N. sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program. The Gaza incident is taking the U.N. Security Council's attention away from the sanctions issue. And Turkey, which currently has a seat on the U.N. Security Council, has never been enthusiastic about the idea of sanctions. Former Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Richard Murphy says sentiment will be thin for any action that may be perceived as benefiting Israel.

"It is an angry mood in Turkey now, and that will only deepen or give more edge to their criticism of sanctions on Iran," said murphy. "It didn't believe that was the way to go before Gaza, and Gaza did nothing to change its mind, I'm sure of that."

Turkey and Brazil recently reached a deal with Iran for it to send some of its low-grade uranium to Turkey for enrichment. Analysts have seen that as part of Turkey's bid for influence. But the U.S. has dismissed the deal as insufficient and says it will continue to press for more sanctions on Iran.

You May Like

US, Brazil's Climate-Change Plan: More Renewables, Less Deforestation

update Officials say joint initiative on climate change will allow Brazil, United States to strengthen and accelerate cooperation on issues ranging from land use to clean energy More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

After Nearly a Century, Voodoo Opera Rises Again

Opera centers on character named Lolo, a Louisiana plantation worker and Voodoo priestess More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishui
X
Abdulaziz Billow
June 30, 2015 2:16 PM
Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs