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An Unlikely Trio

September 10, 2010

Mustafa Akyol in Foreign Affairs:

Insanity, it is often said, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When it comes to the Middle East, writes Stephen Kinzer, a veteran foreign correspondent, Washington has been doing just that. Hence, in Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future, he proposes a radical new course for the United States in the region. The United States, he argues, needs to partner with Iran and Turkey to create a “powerful triangle” whose activities would promote a culture of democracy and combat extremism.

This is, of course, a counterintuitive argument. At the moment, Iran, with its radical ideology and burgeoning nuclear program, is one of Washington’s biggest headaches. And although Turkey is a longtime U.S. ally, the U.S.-Turkish relationship has recently been tested. Last June, for example, Turkey’s representative on the UN Security Council voted against U.S.-backed sanctions on Iran. These days, most of Washington is asking, “Who lost Turkey?” rather than envisioning more extensive cooperation with it.

Yet Kinzer’s U.S.-Iranian-Turkish alliance is a long-term project, and the idea has ample grounding in the modern history of the region. Unlike other Muslim countries there, Kinzer shows, Iran and Turkey have at least a century’s worth of experience struggling for political freedom, during which they “developed an understanding of democracy, and a longing for it. [More]

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