Understanding a new partnership between two nations that have historically repelled one another in non-negative terms. As their national security interests converge, they look to one another to take on the forces that challenge them and look to influence the Middle East in ways never seen before.
By: AIC Research Fellow Gabriela Billini
Iran and Turkey have often competed with one another for regional control, with this struggle spanning many centuries, between several empires. Today, the Middle East presents the world with a picture of many competing states seeking dominance over economic, security, and political issues in the region, especially vis-a-vis the West. With high-stakes conflicts bubbling throughout the region, and borders becoming less defined, the competition for this control has become explosive, as demonstrated by various conflicts like the civil wars in Syria and Yemen, as well as the struggle for a Kurdish state. Given the stakes, there is room for the emergence of a new regional leader (or leaders) capable of stabilizing and securing the Middle East.
Despite their historical norm of existing at odds with one another, today Iran and Turkey hold mostly complementary positions on some of the most important issues in the region, which the leaders have certainly noticed. The result has been an evolving security relationship between the two countries, which this paper aims to explain in detail. Furthermore, given the significant number of aligned goals and interests of both countries, this paper will also discuss areas of cooperation as they explore a new, more substantial regional partnership.
I. Background of Political-Security Relations:
History of relations:
The geopolitical interests of Iran and Turkey date back many centuries, but in a more recent era both nations experienced a friendship and fondness between their leaders. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish state and President from 1923 to 1938, was legendarily admired by Muhammad Shah, the first king under the Pahlavi Dynasty in Iran, in the 20th century. As Ataturk was defining his nation’s course into a modern state by implementing strict policies across Turkey, Muhammad Shah paid a visit to Turkey in 1934. Some of these modernization policies included implementing the Swiss civil code and banning Shari’a law, as well as adopting the use of the Gregorian calendar system. After spending several months there, the monarch was impressed with the implementation of these policies. Upon returning to Iran, the Shah himself decided to speed up the process in his own Westernization policies. (Chehabi, 215) This thinking closely linked the two nations together, during a period of nation-building and shifting political interests in the Middle East.
Since the Revolution, Iran and Turkey have not benefited from very close relations. There has never been an official or declared alliance between the two nations after the fall of the first Pahlavi Shah, when the leaders admired one another; the two countries rarely engaged in dialogue over the years though still maintained sustainable trade relations. However, after the uprisings across the Middle East in 2011 and later the emergence of Daesh, the Middle East saw significant geopolitical changes and an increase in tensions that involved both Iran and Turkey with their interests beginning to converge. US policy and its involvement in the Middle East under the Trump administration has also affected the geopolitical climate. For example, US policy has shifted in the favor of the Gulf countries and eager to disrupt Iran in many of its ambitions. This new rapprochement with the Gulf countries, however, has left Turkey out of many discussions concerning the Middle East, all while Iran has been left in search of partnerships.
Though Turkey remains involved in many Western organizations such as NATO and la Conseil de l’Europe, it is pivoting, building partnerships in diverse regions. At the same time, Iran is in need of strong allies, preferably with connections to the West, to continue its efforts to dominate the region politically and militarily.
Both within Iran and Turkey there seems to be an Islamic resurgence, merely a response to the trend in international relations. Now that the ideological distinction of secularism is no longer a barrier and as the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey increasingly seek to abandon secularism, one can take notice in both governments’ increased efforts towards Islamization of society to develop its national ideal and becomes critical to understanding the domestic political circumstances in both countries today. Leveraging religion as a tool to control societies is a common trait. As Turkey increasingly embraces its Middle Eastern roots, in addition to the way in which the US Administration is treating both nations, it only encourages Iran and Turkey in the very rejection of Westernization domestically. Most importantly, Iran and Turkey hold similar views in key policy areas that are very important in today’s political climate.
II. Today’s Security Objectives:
Iran’s Grand Strategy:
Mohammad Javad Zarif notes three aims in Iran’s grand strategy published in a piece for Foreign Affairs Magazine dated May 2014. These are: a) to have constructive engagement and effective cooperation with the outside world, dispelling any previous stances on its engagement with other states; b) defend Iranian individuals and their rights across the world and insisting that “the Islamic Republic can actively contribute to the restoration of regional peace, security and stability”; c) to defend the collective rights of oppressed people in the world, including underrepresented Muslims and Muslim minorities. The strategy Zarif illustrates can be understood to apply to Iran’s self-perceived role in the civil war in Syria, as well as the Kurdish question - whether a Kurdish state will, in fact, form and the challenges it can bring. In Syria, for example, Iran explains its defense of the Assad regime on the basis of protecting the underrepresented Muslim minority, as well as Syria’s strong support for Iran during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), which was an existential war for Iran. For Iran, the resistance of Iranian Kurds is not only a question of sovereignty, but also of supporting Iraq’s sovereignty and government, which is closely aligned with Iran.
Turkey’s Grand Strategy:
Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has not outlined his nation’s grand strategy in such specific terms as Zarif, but a series of actions and policy shifts from previous policies can help elucidate what the strategy may be. For example, it may be understood as a balancing act between Turkey’s NATO membership and historic engagement with the West as per the Kemalist tradition, and the AKP’s Muslim-rooted agenda, that drives its direction east. This European vision of Turkey established by the founder of the modern state often led Turkey to turn to Europe for security, economic, and political alliances. In the last several years, however, Turkey has increasingly sought closer ties with and has involved itself in issues specific to the Middle East, such as hosting the Organization of the Islamic Corporation for a rally in support for Palestinians. Starting in 2002 when the AKP came to power, it has increasingly been turning towards its Muslim neighbors to develop closer relations with Syria, Iran and Iraq. After such shifts, the question of playing the geopolitical game and choosing a side in the Iran-Saudi proxy war became a decision with which Turkey was willing to engage.
With this interest in developing partnerships, Turkey has shown it is also looking to position itself as an economic and security partner in other regions. This is most evident with regards to China through a change in policies in August 2017 when Turkey decided to shift its stance on the status of Uighur Turks. Some Uighur Turks were crossing into Syria with fake Turkish documents and supporting the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, an organization that is now on the terror list of both countries. China felt that its security was being threatened due to Turkey’s policy on their free movement into Syria and threats that emerged from their time there. Turkey has decided to halt their free movement to address these security concerns and protect China’s interests domestically by addressing groups and media that are spreading anti-Chinese messages.
With regards to their overarching strategies and goals in the region, Iran and Turkey have some significant overlapping interests. For example, they have critical interests on the Kurdish question, with a desire to suppress any possibility for self-determination and state formation on either of their territories, as well as in Iraq and Syria. Further, their relationship touches on other issues such as the Syrian Civil War and their security interests more generally. Because they are both outsiders to the traditional Arab partnerships usually found across the region, both countries see an opportunity to join forces and use their collective influence to help capitalize on the realities of the region today. Now that tensions have arisen between Iran and Russia regarding who will have the most influence and be the central beneficiary for their security and financial support for Asssad, Turkey can potentially become a necessary partner to help Iran reach its ambitions there. Turkey has been invested in the Syrian civil war for several years now, attempting to negotiate a settlement. They also have their own interests in becoming involved in the country during its period of reconstruction.
On the new partnership:
It appears that a relationship has begun to kindle between both states, vis-à-vis recent government visits. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a rare visit to Turkey in July 2017, “to hold dialogues on bilateral relations, regional issues, especially the Syrian problem,” and stated that having exchanges with Turkey on the situation in the region would be necessary on other issues as well, such as the Qatari diplomatic crisis and the civil war in Yemen. It is worth noting that Iran and Turkey were two of the few nations that stood against the Saudi-led campaign against Qatar, and responded to help Qatar during the summer. Turkey deployed troops to Qatar, some say for reassurance. Iran sent several planes stocked with a range of food to aid it in the early days of the crisis, also giving Qatar the liberty to use its airspace. This is an early example of Iran-Turkey acting in unison, as this budding partnership begins to form.
Later on 15 August 2017, the Iranian Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces Mohammad Bagheri visited Ankara for three days, during which he met with President Erdogan. The occasion was remarkable because it was the first time in which such a senior-level Iranian military officer visited Turkey in 38 years. General Bagheri justified the meeting by stating it concerned “[..]better consultation and cooperation on various military and regional issues.” This was the very first effort the two nations have made to face the different policy positions they hold regarding the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, as well as the Kurdish question.
The very latest official visit was even bolder, with Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan visiting Tehran, with the purpose of discussing bilateral cooperation and deepening economic ties. At the top of the agenda of the 4 October 2017 meeting was the successful Kurdish referendum, to which Supreme Leader Khamenei said, “In confronting this event, Iran and Turkey must take every possible action, and Iraq's government must take serious actions on this issue.” The tightening of relationships and close cooperation continue to raise questions on what other areas of cooperation may lie ahead, as Syria becomes another point of convergence. But could the desire for increased influence, in addition to shared security concerns and defiance of the Western status quo turn the countries’ historical rivalry to dust?
Turkey Needs Iran:
In recent decades, Turkey has been heavily focused on meeting European standards towards its bid to enter the European Union, shifting its attention away from the Middle East's concerns. As this was happening, the Iran-Saudi proxy war began to heat up, with Iran developing what some call a Shi’a crescent from Lebanon to Qatar. Now however, Turkey’s European Union membership is becoming less likely, especially since German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced she would seek to end talks on the subject. Furthermore, the German government said it would seek to prevent the modernization of the Customs Union between the two countries, lest it give Turkey the wrong impression regarding its position in the European Union. The cause for such a change is due to issues with a variety of Turkey’s domestic policies. As a result, with this hope waning, Turkey now looks east to seek new, dependable and understanding allies which will offer leverage in the region to expand its reach of influence.
Turkey’s sidelining has produced other consequences for the West. Syria is just one such example of these consequences. As Western states have turned their support towards groups Turkey identifies as enemies or challengers to their government, Turkey shifted from supporting Assad, to launching its own offensives within the Syrian territory, which this paper will discuss later in greater detail. Turkey observes that its so-called allies in Europe are turning against it, not helping the country manage the resulting risks and challenges to its own security apparatus. This obligates Turkey to seek other partners in the region sharing similar interests, even though this puts Turkey at odds with the very partners it views as having turned against it. This development allowed Turkey to emerge as a stakeholder in the Syrian Civil War through the Astana Process, becoming involved with Russia and Iran on the future of Syria, despite the diverse agendas each country may have on the subject. From Turkey’s perspective, it behooves them to become involved with Iran, since Iran has gained leverage in the region. It is beneficial for Iran to add a Sunni state to its list of allies and shift discussions away from the Shi’a crescent to allow its influence to reach a wider geographic area.
Further to this collaboration, tensions are rising and relations decaying between the US and Turkey. In October 2016, an American Pastor named Andrew Brunson found himself charged with multiple counts of terrorism and imprisoned in Turkey, as a part of a nation-wide crackdown as a result of the failed coup. The accusations were on account of Brunson’s alleged links to the Gülen movement, accused of staging the attempted coup. He was arrested with no charges against him for over one year. In July 2018 at his trial the Turkish courts refused to release Brunson from custody, setting another trial date to 12 October 2018. American pressure and pleas from Brunson’s lawyers to release him resulted in placing him under house arrest in Izmir instead, where he practiced his religion and lived with his wife. The extent to which this event will impact and strain US-Turkey relations is unclear, but the responses have been grandiose. For example, President Trump tweeted on 26 July 2018 that the United States “will impose large sanctions on Turkey” for Brunson’s detainment and continued that “[t]his innocent man of faith should be released immediately!” Vice President Pence has also spoken out to Erdogan at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, stating that Brunsen is an innocent man, and that the Administration has worked tirelessly to secure his release. Pence spoke directly to Erdogan and his government, demanding Brunsen’s timely release and threatened significant sanctions. In June, Congress blocked the sale of fighter jets to Turkey because of its regional ties and warming of relations with Russia. The US did eventually impose sanctions and the Lira has suffered greatly as a result. Both of these events further push Turkey closer to Iran. With mutual visa holds against Turks and Americans and Trump withdrawing the United States from the JCPOA, the relationship between Iran and Turkey is pointing towards closer alliance day by day.
The Kurdish question serves as an especially strong and obvious issue area for Iran and Turkey to become closer strategic security partners. Because Turkey has an estimated 50% of the global Kurdish population, and represents 20% of the Turkish population, the threat of self-determination is not just historical, but also territorial. The Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) is the main organized group representing Turkish Kurds and has experienced many instances of backlash and oppression on behalf of the Turkish government. Iran shares a similar concern, with 10 to 12 million Kurds within its borders, and the history of the once short-lived Kurdish state within its territory. This shared experience and concern can be the launch pad to a strong foundation of security coordination between the two nations.
The Kurdish people are the largest stateless population in the world today. Estimated at 36-46 million, they are spread over six countries in the Middle East, but have a telling history in Iraq and Turkey. At the end of WWI, the Kurds were promised partial autonomy in the Iraqi territory by the French, though seemingly not outright self determination. Once the Treaty of Lausanne was signed, declaring the exact borders of the modern Turkish state, Kurds within the new territory became incapable of demanding the right to self-determination in those lands. As a result, the Allies ended their campaign for Kurdish independence. It must be stated, therefore, that at the core of Turkey’s opposition to an independent Kurdistan today is the interest to maintain its territorial integrity.
In the modern state of Turkey, the first Kurdish rebellion took place in 1925, shortly after Ataturk established a secular, Turkish government. Over the years, expressions of Kurdish origins have been oppressed by the government, including the spoken language and apparel. In 1991, the government even deemed it a terrorist act to establish Kurdish state. By the start of the 1970s, many Turkish Kurds organized themselves and established the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), with their founding aspirations in this period of obtaining cultural, linguistic, and political rights in a peaceful, political way. The Turkish government has continued its oppression, which led to the insurgent branch of the PKK in 1984. This insurgent group has pillaged villages, attacked groups, murdered thousands, resulting in more oppression on the Kurdish population.
In Iran, after the Islamic Republic was established in 1979, the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI) attempted to revolt against Khomeini’s government but was immediately stopped. Over the years, there have been sporadic moments of insurgency, but has never resulted in a large movement or a strengthening of the Iranian Kurdish community. The Kurds in Iran have not had as many outward expressions of nationalism, due to the strength of the Iranian government and its steadfast interruption of any uprisings over the years.
Turkey had a history of security ties with Iraqi Kurdistan. In 2016, there were 18 Turkish military bases in the autonomous region, with over 500 soldiers, officers and intelligence staff working there. This was to the dismay of many at the time, including Iraqi members of parliament and foreign minister. Turkey hoped to have a close relationship with officials in the region as a strategic move towards fighting the militia wing of the PKK on their territory, which the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) also opposes. Further, having close economic ties, the Kurds would not want to lose help as a form of soft power in regards to the KRG’s aspirations towards forming an independent state. In addition, with the increasing influence Shi’a Iran has over the Iraqi government, Turkey has seen an interest in maintaining ties with an organized Sunni base in Iraq as well. This is especially important as it relates to Iraq after Daesh.
The partnership between Turkey and Kurdistan will face challenges when the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq announced in early September 2017 that it would hold a referendum on whether its residents will declare Iraqi-Kurdish independence on 25 September 2017. The KRG stated that if the vote was successful, however, it would not result in immediate secession. These ambitions presented a valid concern for many states in the region, considering that the territory Kurds claim as proper Kurdistan covers Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria and the threat a successful vote can pose on them all. Upon the successful vote, none of the governments from these countries recognized the vote, nor the right for a Kurdish state. Immediately following, all feared this would embolden Kurds within their borders to establish their own autonomous regions and even consider seeking statehood, effectively threatening their territorial integrity. For example, the Kurdish administration in northern Syria decided in July 2017 to hold elections for local and regional posts, indicating its interest in becoming more autonomous. The territory they occupy is held by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) military coalition, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). They have officially stated that the region is not seeking autonomy from Damascus, however.
Leading up to the KRG referendum, on 14 September governor of Kirkuk Najm Eddine was removed from office by the Iraqi parliament as another way to put pressure on Kurds to stop their referendum. Further, on 18 September 2017, Iraq’s Supreme Court suspended the scheduled referendum, “until it examine[d] the complaints it received over this plebiscite being unconstitutional”. These meetings yielded a discussion on the importance of “mutual cooperation” and “promoting [better] relations” between their militaries. Some also speculated that the meetings between Iran and Turkey may highlight another dimension of the security relationship between them, potentially extending itself to a plan to delay or stopping the Iraqi Kurdish referendum that had been increasingly facing challenges and appeared more and more unlikely to happen. A unified security response between Iran and Turkey sent a message to their Kurdish minorities that any sort of aspiration to statehood will not be tolerated, and will be met with force.
The day before the scheduled referendum on 24 September, Iran held war games near the Iran-Iraq border near the autonomous Kurdish region. This was an opportunity for Iran to flex its military muscle for the Kurdish independence voters to see. The referendum was successfully held on 25 September with no immediate military or security threats. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Behram Qasimi said "At the request of Iraq, we have closed the airspace and ground borders with the Kurdistan Regional Government." As expected, the US, Iran, Turkey and Iraq all condemned the vote, and Baghdad stated it would not negotiate with Kurdish officials on independence because it viewed the referendum as unconstitutional. The US and UK, however, preferred not to downgrade relations with the Kurdish independent government.
One example of Iran-Turkey responses immediately after the referendum was coordinated military drills between both countries and Iraq near the shared border on the Turkish side. Turkey played with the idea of closing its border with Iraqi Kurdistan, then did, as per Baghdad’s demands, in order to isolate the independent government there. Iraq is also making plans to reopen disused oil pipelines to Turkey that completely bypasses Iraqi Kurdish territory, in efforts to isolate the region and cost them economic power. Iran also coordinated its own measures of isolation by detaining fuel tankers headed to Iraqi Kurdistan. In sum, the events following the referendum help demonstrate that the Kurdish question is an ideal tool to fuse the relationship between Iran and Turkey. Some experts predict that Iran and Turkey will respond with stronger security presence in Syrian Kurdish areas in order to prevent a spillover of nationalist aspirations there. Because the Peshmerga are the strongest in the fight against Daesh, this could have proven to be damaging for the larger effort; but the interest of suppressing nationalist uprisings in Iran, Turkey and Syria was of greater priority for all.
Towards the beginning of the civil war in Syria, Turkey and Iran were on opposing sides with Iran consistently supporting Bashar al-Assad, and Turkey shifting its support, though typically against Assad. Turkey’s position on Syria has been strategic, where officially, it supports the Free Syrian Army (SFA) and opposed the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whose fighters are mostly members of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Then in 2015 it was revealed that Turkey aided Daesh economically by purchasing some of its oil supply. Now as the Syrian Civil War is beginning to wind down, with Daesh defeated and villages taken back by the government, the future of Iran-Turkey relations may be defined by the course they can set forth on the tail end of this conflict.
In another wave of shifting support, Turkey once supported anti-Assad groups, which resulted in Assad’s domestic support for PKK-allied groups, most notably PYD and their military arm, YPG. Assad went so far as to aiding them to obtain control over territory in northern Syria, alongside the Turkish border, further displeasing Erdogan. Assad essentially used the PYD as a tool to control the northern section of Syria by giving them the sense of government support, while Assad played his cards against Turkey. The YPG took part in the coalition against Daesh with US support with the motivation to end Daesh control, though not to fight against the Assad regime. The alliance between the groups and Assad is also further complicated by PYD/YPG’s access to grain and oil, which Assad needs for his own forces.
Once Daesh was defeated, the Assad regime turned its back on the YPG in late 2017, calling the group traitors. This, however, quickly changed in January when the YPG began cooperating with Turkey, inviting them into their controlled territory. Assad wanted no Turkish meddling in Syria and shifted his stance by allowing the YPG to move around regime-controlled territory, where Iranian militias are located. With this series of shifts, it is apparent that Assad’s partnership with the PYD/YPG depends on Turkey’s interests in Syria and on Turkey’s shifting support for the Assad regime. Because of the YPG’s presence on the Syria-Turkish border and their alliance with the PKK, legally dubbed a terrorist organization in Turkey, Erdogan devised a plan to capture Afrin. Turkey’s interest in gaining control of Afrin has brought the YPG and Assad together, as neither want Turkish presence in Syrian territory. Turkey successfully captured the city of Afrin in March and has since strained relations with the Assad regime. A departure from Afrin and a closer relationship with Iran could lead to a weakened relationship between Assad and the PYD/YPG Kurds, to benefit both Turkish and Syrian interests. This move makes Turkey’s position at the negotiating table far more relevant, making the country a bigger stakeholder.
The extent of Iranian and Turkish campaigns in Syria
With military bases in Syrian territory, Turkey has some security and military leverage to contribute to an Iran-Turkey partnership, which would appeal to Iran. In the past, Turkey has allowed the United States to use its bases, in joint efforts to attack Daesh. Then in late 2017, as it began to shift its policies on the civil war, Turkey began to question US intentions and strategy, pivoting away from US presence in the region. Because Turkey has 2.5 million Syrian refugees within its borders, it has an interest in seeing the civil war’s end, as well as active involvement in the rehabilitation in the region, particularly as it moves further away from the U.S. and its economy suffers as a result. Turkey has gone as far as assisting in rebuilding a recaptured Syrian city whose liberation it played a hand in, declaring itself as a reliable partner for the future of Syria. Iran also wishes to find a solution for the end of the civil war, sharing Turkey’s interest in rebuilding. Because of this common objective, many factors have to be mended between the new partners to find a common path towards achieving it.
Settling the conflict in Syria has several layers: a) the question of Bashar al Assad's legitimacy as the continued leader of the Syrian Arab Republic b) settling the battle between government forces and the various rebel groups, and c) the resettlement of IDPs and refugees abroad. As strong allies of Assad’s government and with the interest of keeping him in power, Iran and Russia are in a position to negotiate the future of Syria while conserving the interests of the current government. Some experts predict that ending the crisis in Syria will require Turkey’s assistance on multiple dimensions, and having it in Syria’s short list of allies would aid Iran and Russia in controlling Turkish-backed rebel groups who are also the Syrian government’s opposition. It is believed that Turkey can bring them to the negotiating table to settle the conflict, strengthening its security appeal. The trio have already demonstrated some effort towards their willingness to engage in the settlement
One such example of cooperation between Iran, Russia and Turkey was on 8 October 2017, when President Erdogan announced a collaboration with Russia, Iran and the Free Syrian Army on scaling back violence in the Idlib province. About 80 troops in 12 armored vehicles entered the province on 12 October, and faced the conflict between the Free Syrian Army and the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance. With this support for its years-long ally of the Free Syrian Army, Turkey worked towards Assad’s ends with no interest to remove him from power. It is likely that this example can be a model for further collaboration in other areas across Syria, to stabilize conditions and come to an accord, while leaving Assad in power.
Iran had its own ideological and political clashes within Syria because of its presence near the Israeli border. Israel and Russia have worked closely to negotiate Iran’s presence out of these regions, even as Israel simply wants Iran out of its neighboring country completely. On 11 July 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a guarantee that Iranian forces, Hezbollah and various Shi’a militias will remain 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Israeli border, in exchange for Israeli acceptance of Assad’s retention of power, and an end in Israeli attacks on Syria. Israel declined and the next day shot down a Syrian fighter jet. As Iran and Russia are experiencing a period of disagreement and breach in parallel policies, the legitimacy of Russia’s negotiations with Israel on the matter wither significantly. With Israel’s rejection of the offer, tensions are beginning to arise between Russia and Israel as well.
As relations between Turkey, the United States, and other NATO allies become more labored, Turkey must look elsewhere for allies, especially to address issues that are pertinent to its national and security interests. With a large repressed Kurdish population and the economic and political pressures of receiving Syrian refugees becoming more relevant, Iran appeals to Turkey as a strong partner in resolving key issues, especially as Iran emerges as a great influencer in the region. Both countries have few allies in the region at large. The important issue of the Kurdish question serves as a strong fuse for the two countries because of their shared concerns. Coordination on this matter can yield a mending of differences on the Syrian question. A strong partnership between the two nations could have the authority and strength to shape the geopolitical future of the Middle East - security, power politics, and future alliances for years to come. It is also worth noting that this level of influence and geopolitical strength is exactly what both sides are looking for.