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The following article appeared as Fikret Bila’s regular column in the daily Milliyet on 12 June 2010. Translated from Turkish by Tim Drayton.

Is Turkey to blame for Iran’s atom bomb?

Fikret Bila

Debate surrounds Turkey’s vote – together with Brazil - against imposing sanctions on Iran.

Washington’s first response, dissatisfied as it was with Turkey’s vote, was along the lines of, “It will keep the diplomatic door open with Iran.” Yesterday, the word “disappointment” was pronounced.

Domestic commentators, on the other hand, wonder whether Turkey will be held to account in the event that Iran at some stage announces that it has made a nuclear weapon.

Assuming that such a development came to pass, can the blame for Iran developing an atom bomb really be placed at Turkey’s door?

Underlying this proposition is the premise that Turkey, in opposing sanctions, assisted Iran in developing nuclear weapons or made a significant contribution in this direction. If we turn this on its head, this brings us to the erroneous conclusion that if Turkey had voted in favour of sanctions Iran would not have been able to produce its atom bomb.

Will sanctions put the brake on?

Iran has up until now, as far as it is concerned, succeeded in taking the process forward without any let up in its activities.

In the face of intense US pressure, it has made dexterous use of diplomatic means to further its ends.

To expect the imposing of sanctions on Iran to halt Tehran at this phase is unrealistic.

Within this process, Turkey’s efforts did not run counter to the efforts and aims of the USA and the Western world. Nor do they now.

The only concrete step that has brought Iran close to the table was the swap agreement reached between Iran, Turkey and Brazil. The USA and the West were not satisfied with this agreement Swapping may not have gone far enough, but this is as far as it has proved possible to go. To dismiss this step, rather than consider how it may be consolidated on, will not dissuade Iran. Today Iran has stiffened its resolve to oppose the USA and Western countries and is more determined than ever to advance its nuclear programme.

For the USA and other Western nations to close all doors tightly on Iran will not exert much influence on Iran.

The nuclear process

Now the USA, along with the other permanent members of the Security Council, is trying to stop Iran. Turkey, having no desire for nuclear weapons so close to home, is striving to persuade Tehran. In the face of criticism that Turkey will be to blame if, today, Iran obtains nuclear weapons, it must first be asked whether any permanent members of the Security Council have contributed towards Iran’s nuclear process. Or whether any of the European Union’s strongest nations contributed towards this process at any stage. Whether they contributed in providing Iran with nuclear technology or training staff. Iran has been pursuing its nuclear programmes, on and off, for a full 40 years. Turkey’s responsibility for the stage that this process has reached today, or will reach in the future, will pale into insignificance against that of other countries.

The answer to the question as to which countries supplied Iran with nuclear facilities and missile technology is to be sought from among the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

Sulking is no solution

It must not be forgotten that the problem with Iran is a process. Today’s circumstances may change tomorrow. If the aim is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and to ensure that it uses nuclear technology solely as a source of energy, peaceful efforts must continue. To sulk at, punish and blame Turkey on account of its negative vote, which will not influence the outcome, is to bury one’s head in the sand.

Turkey heads the list of countries that are concerned at the prospect of Iran producing a nuclear weapon. The USA and other Western countries should not forget this.

Archive of Turkish press translations by Tim Drayton