Ali Vaez writes: Today’s competition between Turkey and Iran is the latest iteration of an old power game: a struggle their progenitors, the Byzantine and Persian empires, started over the control of Mesopotamia — today’s Iraq and Syria. While the rivalry outlived their transformation from empires to nation-states, they have managed to keep the peace between themselves for nearly 200 years.
Yet Turkey and Iran are now on a collision course, mostly because of their involvement as the region’s major Sunni and Shiite powers in the deepening sectarian conflicts in Iraq and Syria. Their inability to accommodate each other has the potential to undermine or even undo the strong ties they have developed over the past two decades, as their economies became increasingly intertwined.
How the two countries choose to deploy their power and whether they can overcome their differences are vitally important to determining the future of the Middle East. Left unchecked, the present dynamics point toward greater bloodshed, growing instability and greater risks of direct — even if inadvertent — military confrontation. [Continue reading…]