The distribution of people of Turkic cultural background ranges from Siberia, across Central Asia, to Eastern Europe. As of 2011 the largest groups of Turkic people live throughout Central Asia—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan, in addition to Turkey and Iran. Additionally, Turkic people are found within Crimea, East Turkistan region of western China, northern Iraq, Pakistan, Israel, Russia, Afghanistan, and the Balkans: Moldova, Bulgaria, Romania, and former Yugoslavia.
Some 170 million people have a Turkic language as their native language, an additional 20 million people speak a Turkic language as a second language.
Uighur in Xinjiang China are Turkic.
Azerbaijanis in Iran are the largest minority to the Persians.
“I don’t think Turkey has any intent to fight Iran. In fact, it would like to avoid that at any cost,” said Turkish political analyst Soli Ozel, a professor of international relations at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University. “There are too many common interests between the two countries, although that’s never stopped them from competing fiercely in the region.”
What is most likely, Ozel said, is that Turkey and Iran will revert to the elaborate kind of diplomatic gamesmanship that has characterized the relations between these two regional powers and rivals for centuries.
“It’s all smiles between Turkey and Iran, but that’s very typical of the relationship between these two countries, which is competition and cooperation wrapped up in a total lack of trust.”
The Partitioning of the Ottoman Empire (30 October 1918 – 1 November 1922) was a political event that occurred after World War I. The huge conglomeration of territories and peoples formerly ruled by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire was divided into several new nations.
The partitioning brought the creation of the modern Arab world and the Republic of Turkey. The League of Nations granted France mandates over Syria and Lebanon and granted the United Kingdom mandates over Mesopotamia and Palestine (which was later divided into two regions: Palestine and Transjordan). Parts of the Ottoman Empire on the Arabian Peninsula became parts of what are today Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Retired General Leonid Ivashov, former member of the Russian Military Council, made a remarkable statement when asked about Russian military exercises around an Iran attack scenario. He said: “These maneuvers display Russia’s readiness to protect its national interests with the power of weapons and consolidate its political position through military force.”
Russian and Chinese officials also see the proposed US missile shield in Europe as threat to their national security. Add to that Russian and Chinese fears about the Islamic expansion of the Turkish model, which is linked to ethnic Turkmen and separatist movements, similar to those in Chechnya and eastern China.
It is true that Turkey is a key player, if not the major one, in helping the West to implement its agenda in the Middle East. But Turkey is also concerned about not aggravating matters to a point that they spin out of control. Ankara knows well that its economic growth in the past 10 years has been based on regional stability, after it gave up on Europe and turned its compass toward the Arab and Muslim East.
That is why Turkish leaders have recently toned down their harsh criticism of Syria and have been generally moderate on Iran. Ankara fears that any regional confrontation will undermine Turkish political stability.
Turkey knows that a showdown in the region would devastate its economy, which took years to build and depends on US$30 billion in trade with Iraq, not to mention its investments in Kurdistan. Turkey’s US$15 billion bilateral trade with Iran is set to reach US$40 billion in the next five years. Thus, there are certain boundaries that bind Turkey’s hands when it comes to participating in sanctions against Syria and Iran.
Recent developments in the region have opened a strategic window of opportunity for Russia and China to gain a foothold in this area of the world, where previously they were only bystanders. There is already very little mutual trust between Russia and the US, and mistrust is growing in China due to Washington’s meddling in Beijing’s internal affairs, and more recently, the US eastward military expansion.
On the economic front, The Times of London recently reported that Iraqi oil reserves will soon become the largest in the world at 350 billion barrels, after previous numbers estimated them at 143 billion barrels. This makes Iraq the most strategic country among the oil states. If exploited, its production is expected to increase from 2 million barrels per day (bpd) to 6 million bpd in the next 10 years.
Iran, meanwhile, has been proven to have the world’s second largest gas reserves with 33 trillion cubic meters. According to the Iranian Center for Oil Studies, the country also has the world’s third largest oil reserves and is the second largest oil exporter. It produces about 4.2 million bpd, including 2.6 million in exports, with Iran’s Mehr News Agency reporting that oil and gas revenues could reach US$250 billion in the coming years.
These numbers are music to the ears of Russia and China, especially since American and European companies are now not allowed to operate in Iran. Also, both Iran and Iraq will spend US$100-500 billion in the coming years to develop their energy capabilities – amounts that are tempting to Chinese and Asian companies.
More importantly, China and Russia will not waste the opportunity – handed to them as a result of the West’s failed crisis management – to become partners in securing their economic interests. Militarily, both countries are concerned about US expansion, particularly Washington’s insistence on deploying its so-called missile defense system in Turkey and Central Europe, all the way to fringes of East Asia.