ERGUN BABAHAN

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ERGUN BABAHAN
April 16, 2012, Monday

Chess game called Iran

Israel and Washington are seeking to overthrow or at least weaken the Iranian regime at all costs.

Using the advantage of their positions in the global balance of power and their control of the international media, they are shining the spotlight on Iran's errors while hiding Israel's policies.

As a matter of fact, if Iran moved towards taking a position similar to Turkey's -- recognizing the state of Israel but criticizing its concrete practices -- this would be more effective and beneficial to the Palestinians.

The nuclear security summit held in İstanbul, thanks to Turkey's efforts, should have shown Tehran the importance of dialogue. Yet, it must be acknowledged that the Tehran administration is not poised to accept the truth.

By promoting sectarian policies in the region to the extreme, Iran is actually doing the greatest harm to Muslim peoples while claiming to act as their mouthpiece. As in the case of Bahrain, countries where Sunni governments are in power are refraining from recognizing the rights of Shiites out of fear of Iran. And in countries ruled by a Shiite minority, like Syria, the government can be as bold and reckless as to massacre its people with open support from Iran.

In addition, Iran's sectarian policies have brought Iraq nearly to the point of splitting.

Turkey is not only concerned about a sectarian conflict or war in the region, but also with trying to prevent a US or Israeli attack on Iran. Unlike in Iran, religious groups in Turkey know that a real democratic regime brings freedom to all believers, especially Muslims. All groups in Turkey, including secularists and conservatives, engage in politics via political parties or civil society organizations (CSOs). Today, mosques are only places of worship, not the arenas of politics.

The mosques of a country become venues of politics, and thereby contaminated, usually as a result of the repressive policies of the regime. As mosques become places of politics, this creates an atmosphere suitable for hate speech, sectarian hostilities and animosity towards other religions. Therefore, threats and pressure against Iran play into the hands of mullahs, i.e., the groups who promote mosques as venues of politics. Even those who want a more democratic Iran feel the need to remain silent and lend support to the regime against external threats.

Constructive dialogue and mutual talks are the only way to make Iran a more democratic, safe and livable place. It is important to bear in mind that Iran had been attacked by Iraq and paid a heavy cost because of US policies against Iran. Thus, it is understandable that Iran is skeptical of all discourse and actions on the part of the West.

At this point, as a country that can understand the concerns of both its Western allies and Iran, Turkey can and should play a balancing role.

Not only Turkey's economic stability but also its democratic stability, welfare and the peace of its people depend on the elimination of conflicts and tension in the region. Developments in Syria and Iran are slowly becoming internal issues for Turkey.

Both Iran and the West should realize this fact and lend an ear to Turkey's words.

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