Turkey risks confrontation with U.S in Iranian energy plans - Jerusalem Post

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plans to disregard U.S. sanctions and purchase Iranian natural gas is sure to fuel tensions in the ongoing row between Washington and Ankara, the Jerusalem Post wrote.

Erdogan on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York on Tuesday said Turkey would be purchasing Iranian natural gas despite U.S. threats to punish countries doing business with the country. 

“We need to be realistic ... How can I heat my people’s homes if we stop purchasing Iran’s natural gas?,” Turkey’s strongman said.

Iranian products arrive at an inexpensive price for Turkey given the two countries share a border.

“For that reason, it’s rational for Turkey to [continue buying Iranian gas],” the Jerusalem Post quoted Duke University Professor of Economics and Political Science Timur Kuran as saying. “This issue is likely to be another source of conflict... it will not help repair relations that have been seriously frayed in recent years.”

Turkey shares borders with both Iraq and Syria and can thus influence the outcomes of the crises there. Western countries also relied on Ankara to stop the flow of refugees, particularly into Europe, and Erdogan played a leading role in negotiating a demilitarized zone in the northern Syrian province of Idlib that has thus far prevented a regime offensive and resulting humanitarian crisis.

Ankara's interests in neighbouring Syria and Turkey’s detention of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson, who faces terrorism charges are two of the main factors fuelling a diplomatic crisis that has led the United States to apply sanctions on Turkish officials. 

Despite hope for Brunson’s release on his next hearing scheduled for Oct. 12, relations between Ankara and Washington will still be strained if Turkey continues to buy natural gas from Iran, according to Nicholas Danforth, Senior Policy Analyst focusing on Turkey and the Middle East at the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center.

“Iran sanctions have the potential to be the next big crisis in US-Turkish relations,” according to Danforth who noted that this development may escalate to the point where the U.S. administration imposes secondary sanctions on Turkey.