First, there is the economic rationale. Russia’s unilateral sanctions have created an urgent Turkish need to enhance economic relations with other nations — including Iran. Turkey and Iran have had nothing in common in the past five years in terms of their views of regional political developments. However, the Russian embargo has created an incentive to go beyond these political differences. While in Tehran, Davutoglu spoke about the two countries’ agreement to expand bilateral trade to $50 billon a year. In other words, Turkey is seeking to become Iran’s first trade partner.
This enthusiasm is based on a lasting feature of Turkey-Iran relations: the decoupling of economics from politics. Unlike with Russia, the EU and the United States, economic relations between Tehran and Ankara have never been conditioned on political prerequisites. This tells the elites of both nations that they can pursue their regional policies without jeopardizing economic relations.
This is a major factor in favor of the expansion of the economic relationship between the two countries. Additionally, while heading to Tehran, Davutoglu must have had in mind the changing economic atmosphere in Iran and the opportunities after the Jan. 16 “Implementation Day” of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Yet despite their importance, economic relations alone do not explain such a consequential change in the bilateral relationship.