In many respects, Turkey should be among the regional countries least affected by Iran’s nuclear activities.

In many respects, Turkey should be among the regional countries least affected by Iran’s nuclear activities. A long-standing member of NATO, Turkey is formally protected by the collective security guarantee laid out in Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty. The country’s ties to the West are further strengthened – at least in theory – by its ongoing accession talks with the European Union (EU). Should these talks be successful, Turkey would receive an immense boost to its standing and prestige in the region. Both these factors make it less likely that Turkey would respond to a nuclearcapable Iran by seeking to acquire nuclear weapons itself. However, the Turks have a lingering scepticism about NATO guarantees, which they did not feel were forthcoming in the First and Second Gulf Wars. A hardening EU mood against Turkish accession is adding to a growing alienation from the West in Turkey, and could give the country more reason to consider its own deterrent. Turkish government officials have not yet thought through how best to respond if Iran goes nuclear, in part because they are more preoccupied today with the issue of Kurdish separatism and the Iraq imbroglio. The Turks are concerned about the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, not because they fear Iran would threaten them with such weapons, but rather because the development would upset the regional balance of power to Turkey’s disadvantage. If Turkey did seek to establish its own deterrent, it would do so with the advantage of already having in place a well-established nuclear-research agency, the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority (TAEK). Furthermore, preliminary work has begun on a civilian nuclear-energy programme that appears likely to move ahead, thereby expanding Turkey’s nuclear expertise. If its current nuclear-energy plans are fulfilled, Turkey could have a functioning nuclear power reactor by 2020. Consequently, although Turkey is not likely to be the country most threatened by Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons, it is the Muslim neighbour most able technically to respond in kind.

Online Access & Digital Download £23.50
Product variations
Online Access & Digital Download £23.50 (Inc VAT if applicable)
Back to content list

Strategic Dossiers

Nuclear Programmes in the Middle East: In the shadow of Iran

A history of nuclear programmes in the region, including Israel and Turkey, an evaluation of national nuclear capabilities and policies, and an analysis of future aspirations.

Strategic Dossier Press

Nuclear Programmes in the Middle East

A press release for the launch of this Strategic Dossier is available here.

A press statement for the launch of this Strategic Dossier is available here.

Strategic Dossiers

Harnessing the Institute's technical expertise to present detailed information on the key strategic issues.