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Turkey is stuck dab in the middle when it comes to Iran's nuclear aims and the West's efforts to stymie them.
Trade between the two countries hit an estimated $10 billion in 2009, compared with $1 billion in 2000. Iran also supplies nearly a third of Turkey's gas.
“The AKP is the most market-oriented government Turkey has ever had,” said Henri Barkey, a Turkey expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. “And with the tremendous market potential of Iran, Ankara is going to be very hesitant to do anything that will put them out of favor with Tehran.”
And despite warming relations between the two neighbors, Ankara has its own fears about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“If Iran continues on this path there is long-term potential for cascading nuclear proliferation and regional instability,” said Ian Lesser, an expert on Turkey and Iran at the Washington-based German Marshall Fund. “I see no good news for Turkey coming from Iran’s current position.”
If their efforts to resolve this crisis through mediation fail, Turkey is likely to face a tough choice between historic Western alliances and newfound friends in Tehran.
“It is clear that if he [Davutoglu] can pull it off and ease the international tension over Iran, then both his and Turkey’s international prestige will increase greatly,” wrote Semih Idiz, a Turkish columnist, in the Turkish paper Hurriyet Daily News. “But if he cannot, then Turkey will not just have been isolated in NATO and Europe, but will also end up having been used by Iran to buy time against the West.”