When in a recent column, I commented on efforts by NATO powers to establish some contact with the Iranian military, I didn’t expect any quick development on that score. However, this is precisely what happened last week when Iran’s new Chief of Staff, General Muhammad-Hussein Baqeri led a 40-man military-political delegation to the Turkish capital Ankara for a three-day official visit which had been the subject of months of intense negotiations between the two neighbors.
The visit was historic for at least four reasons.
To start with, this was the first time since the seizure of power by the mullahs in 1979 that an Iranian Chief of Staff visited Turkey. Before the mullahs seized power, Iran and Turkey had been allies in the context of three military pacts.
The first, Saadabad Pact, a brainchild of Reza Shah of Iran and Turkey’s first President Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), provided the backbone of relations from the 1920s to the Second World War. The second was the Baghdad Pact, which also included Great Britain and Iraq, and came to an end in 1958 with the military coup that ended the Iraqi monarchy. The Baghdad Pact was quickly replaced by the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) which, in addition to the UK, also included Pakistan.
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