Leader Development & Education for Sustained Peace Program: Cross-Cultural, Geopolitical & Regional Education

Scholarly Spotlight: Alex Vatanka

Background: This Scholarly Spotlight looks at Middle East Institute scholar Alex Vatanka. Vatanka is also a regular lecturer for LDESP, teaching at seminars regarding Iran and Afghanistan. From 2006 to 2010, he was the Managing Editor of Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst, based in Washington. He joined the Middle East Institute as a scholar in 2007. Since 2006, he also lectures as a Senior Fellow in Middle East Studies at the US Air Force Special Operations School (USAFSOS) at Hurlburt Field. Beyond Jane’s and the Middle East Institute, he has written for such outlets as Christian Science Monitor, Americas Quarterly, the Journal of International Security Affairs, BBC Persian Online, Jamestown Foundation, The World Today, Daily Beast, the Jerusalem Post and the Council of Foreign Relations.

In May, Vatanka wrote an article on how “Syria Drives a Wedge Between Turkey and Iran.” Below is an excerpt of the article:

“The Iranian-Turkish conflict about the future of the Assad regime in Syria has the potential to set back relations between Ankara and Tehran by decades. However, the conflict has not reached a tipping point and it is unlikely to do so as long as the Iranian-Turkish rivalry is limited only to tactical efforts by each side in shaping the power struggle in Syria. What will significantly change the Iran-Turkey-Syria equation is if Tehran concludes that Turkey is leading a protracted US-backed drive to bring about regime changes in the Middle East and that “Libyan model” can be repeated first in Syria and later in Iran. Absent of such a scenario, Iran is neither overly free to shape the outcome in Syria nor reliant on the Syrian regime to the degree where it will risk all other regional interests to prop up Assad. Seen from Tehran, the potential loss of the Assad regime is a recoverable strategic setback if it does not have a spillover effect that directly challenges the Islamic Republic’s grip on power in Tehran. Iran’s relations with Syria were from the beginning a marriage of convenience and plenty of suspicion existed in Damascus-Tehran relations before the Arab Spring. The post-Saddam Shia elite in Baghdad have already turned Iraq into Tehran’s key Arab ally and regional priority.”

Read the full article here.

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