Turkey fence-sitting over expiration of UN arms embargo on Iran – analyst

Turkey, which has yet to devise a policy on the expiration of the U.N. arms embargo on Iran in October, is likely to closely follow the evolution of U.S. policy on Tehran and the trajectory of U.S.-Turkey relations before doing so, wrote Şaban Kardaş, an associate professor of political science and international relations at TOBB-ETU University in Ankara. 

The most likely outcome in October from Ankara’s perspective, Kardaş wrote on Tuesday in the Atlantic Council, is that the United States will find itself unable to stop the lifting of the embargo, which could prompt Washington to address the arms sales through bilateral engagements with potential stakeholders, including allies Russia and China.

A 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers provided for Tehran to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions, in addition to a U.N. conventional-weapons embargo, is set to expire in October.

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has warned that Washington could try to force a “snapback” of sanctions against Tehran by all United Nations Security Council members as part of the 2015 Iran nuclear accord if the embargo is allowed to expire at that time.

In May, Iran threatened a "crushing response" to ongoing efforts by the United States to prolong the arms embargo.

“A particular issue of concern to Ankara is whether Moscow might choose to supply advanced weapons systems to Iran, which the latter has long sought,’’ he wrote, adding that a decision by Russia to tell the Russian S-400 air defence missile system to Iran, will not be welcome by Turkey.

Turkey has taken delivery of the Russian S-400, but has yet to active the system.

Kardaş said that Ankara is unlikely to escalate this issue into a direct crisis with Moscow regardless of the outcome as Iran’s procurement of weapons like the S-400 does not pose an immediate threat to Turkey.

The most critical factor in determining Ankara’s reaction in October will be how Turkey-U.S. relations unfold by then, Kardaş said, noting the country will have more room to manoeuvre should it resolve some of its outstanding issues with Washington.

On the prospects of cooperation between Iran and Turkey in arms procurement, Kardaş wrote said it was too early to say, pointing out however that Ankara and Tehran are on opposite sides of the conflicts in both Iraq and Syria, which likely to prevent such a development.