Iran, Iraq and Turkey have decided to form a triple military alliance as the first step towards growing cooperation in mutual defense. The creation of the “military triangle” was highlighted yesterday in a report published by Fars News Agency, the principal news outlet for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The idea of alliance was raised in the recent trip to Ankara by Iran’s Chief of Staff of Armed Forces General Muhammad Hussein Baqeri at the head of a 40-man delegation, during high-level meetings with Turkish leaders including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Baqeri’s visit was the first of its kind by the highest Islamic Republic military commander to a member-state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Its historic importance was subsequently highlighted by the visit to Tehran of the Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar followed by President Erdogan himself. Within a few days of Baqeri’s visit to Ankara, his Iraqi counterpart Gen. Othman al-Ghanimi came to Tehran to discuss Baghdad’s role in the emerging alliance project.
Sources day that Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish senior commanders held a series of meetings to set out the rules for join staff conversation, exchange of military intelligence and targeted joint operations. Since then, the three neighbors have held coordinated military exercises along their respective borders. Initially, the composition of Baqeri’s team in his Ankara visit was kept confidential.
Now, however, Fars has revealed the names of some of those who accompanied the Chief of Staff in his historic visit. They included General Muhammad Pakpur, Commander of the Ground Forces of the IRGC, Gen. Qassem Rezai, Commander of the Border Forces and the deputy head of the regular army’s planning division. Gen. Rahim-Zadeh.
General Mehrabi was also on Baqeri’s team, who heads the Khatam al-Anbia base, a conglomerate that runs the IRGC’s economic and business enterprises, indicating that the “triple alliance” may also include the sale of certain categories of weapons by Iran to Turkey and Iraq, as well as joint construction projects in border areas.
The presence in General Baqeri’s team of Gen. Hassan Baqeri, in charge of the army’s training programs, indicated the intention to extend military cooperation into educational and academic domains.
The fact that Baqeri also met the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildrim, Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli and Security Chief Hakan Fidan underlined the broader political dimensions of his high profile role in reshaping Iran’s defense and foreign policies.
The “triple alliance” also envisages cooperation in training of the security forces of the three neighbors.
In talks with his Turkish and Iraqi counterparts, Gen. Baqeri proposed the development of plans for academic level “joint action” in the field of defense and security. That could allow for an exchange of students seeking military careers at higher academic levels.
Such an exchange would enable Iranian trainee officers to get familiar with the military culture of NATO, something that was available to Iran before the Islamic Revolution in 1979. At the same time, the program would enable the military in Iraq and Turkey to obtain direct understanding of Iran’s military doctrine, mindset, methods and practices.
It is not clear how many trainee officers would be exchanged among the three members of the proposed alliance. But according to General Baqeri the putative allies would also organize joint courses for trainee officers from all three countries. That would allow the gradual emergence of a new generation of officers who have studied together and thus know each other’s way of thinking more closely, fostering an esprit de corps that could strengthen neighborly ties.
According to Fars, it was the Kurdish secessionist referendum in Iraq that speeded up a process that had been “in gestation at thought level for some time”.
In an unusually frank statement, General Baqeri has asserted that Iran, Iraq and Turkey will not allow Iraqi Kurds to secede. Iran and Turkey have a long history of alliance treaties.