The Changing Balance of Shiite and Sunni Influence in the Middle East and its Implications for Afghanistan and Pakistan

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Context
250_Erdogan_and_Gilani_Oct_27_09_v2Turkish and Persian Dimension

Recent developments in the relationship between Turkey and Iran point toward an emerging shift in the Middle East balance of power. For the most part these ties have been of socio-economic nature. For example, on October 28th Iran and Turkey signed an agreement for the joint exploration and production of gas from Iran’s South Pars field, with a total investment of $4 billion and a future prospect of Iran becoming a supplier to the Nabucco energy project.

Now an Israeli website reports that these relations are extending into the realm of military and intelligence cooperation. This development is coming at a peculiar time, as Iran is worried about the threat of an Israeli attack due to its nuclear ambitions. This is alarming news for Israel, as it has long maintained a political and military relationship with Turkey. If indeed such an agreement has taken place between Iran and Turkey, it will surely occur at the expense of Turkey’s relationship with Israel.

Turkey has been taking on an increasingly assertive posture in regard to the role of Israel in the Middle East, particularly in the aftermath of the Winter 2008-2009 Gaza Conflict. However, Turkey has also been serving as a conduit between the West and Iran, in matters related to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Turkey has also played a facilitator role for the US and Israel in talks related to Syria. Something is changing in the political dynamics of Middle East, with the Middle East Peace Process deadlocked. It seems that the Jordanians, Egyptians and Saudis are working towards a different aim as compared to Turkey, in regard to Iran and the Middle East Peace Process.

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