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If you are amazed at the title, then that should also be your reaction when reading the document detailing the NATO missile defense system, adopted at a summit the day before yesterday, in Lisbon, in which Iran is not explicitly mentioned as the prime target.

The proposal for the controversial missile defense system, which Washington considers a priority, was met with reservations from Turkey, the only Middle Eastern state in the alliance. Such reservations came when Iran was mentioned, and accordingly, after consultations with the alliance, it was agreed on that Tehran would not be specifically referred to in the document, in order to ensure that the proposal was approved by the Turks. Does this mean that Iran is not a target of the missile defense system?

Of course not, the NATO alliance includes 28 European countries, as well as America, Canada and Turkey. It has also established a partnership with Russia, and holds committees with several Gulf and Arab states, and even Israel. So who is the target then? Iran is certainly at the top of the list, and the removal of ‘Tehran’ from the document is only a formality, as a result of Turkish reservations, in order to achieve a consensus. Here, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said explicitly: “No names have been mentioned in NATO’s public documents but we call a cat a cat … Today’s missile threat is Iran.”

It is clear that the Turks have prioritized their interests over slogans or symbolic actions, and this is a very astute move. It is also a message to other Middle Eastern countries, specifically Saudi Arabia and Egypt, highlighting the need for a careful re-assessment of the value of countries such as Turkey and Pakistan, instead of wasting time with countries that do not have a real impact in the region. This is a matter will be the subject of a future article. What the Turks did was their legitimate right, but an honest assessment would suggest it was a ‘policy of interests’. The Turks have a duty to protect the interests of their country and their people. This is contrary to what Iranian politicians do, above all the Iranian President, who has caused the world to unite against him, through his mistakes and political-charged rhetoric, whilst failing to unify his people behind him. 17 days ago, Ahmadinejad criticized Russia for its failure to deliver S-300 missiles to Iran. Ahmadinejad said that day: “We have been sold out to our enemies!”

On that day, I had an appointment in London with a significant Iranian personality. I asked him for his opinion of what Ahmadinejad had said, and he looked at me with astonishment, saying: “Reasonable?! Mad!…Does he not know about the politics of interests?” Today, after the Turks approved the missile defense system, can Tehran also say that the Turks have sold them to America? The Iranians can say what they want, but past events and logic would suggest that no one will fight Iran’s wars, and no one will pay Tehran’s exorbitant bill. Indeed Tehran’s ‘allies’ in the region would sell the country out at the first opportunity, whether it was a military confrontation against Iran, or a political earthquake within Tehran itself.

This is the most important lesson that we can take from the Turkish stance at the Lisbon summit. It is not a matter of placing or removing Iran’s name from the missile defense system agreement. Rather, the key point is that the Europeans, Americans, Turks and also the Russians, have all agreed at a point which suits all their interests. The biggest loser is Iran of course.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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