2 Syrians, 2 Ideas -- Iran and Turkey in micro-perspective

Discussion in 'Middle East - General' started by ekrem, Oct 27, 2010.

  1. ekrem

    ekrem VIP Member

    Aug 9, 2005
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    Die ZEIT
    With a circulation of 488,036 and an estimated readership of slightly above 2 million, it is the most widely read German weekly newspaper.
    The paper is considered to be highbrow.
    Die Zeit - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Battle over Arabia
    Washing machines, cars, soap operas - companies from Iran and Turkey are competing in Africa and the Middle East about who is number one exporter in the region.

    A bazaar in the suburbs of Damascus. Low-hanging tarpaulins, dusty streets, wooden tables with underwear, faucets, air conditioners. What all of these products have in common: Made in Iran!
    Ahmed Attar served just a group of Iranian women, dressed in chador. They pay with Iranian Rial, he returns Syrian pounds. On the wall hang pictures of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and of the Syrian head of state Assad .
    "Iran is my business, my life." The Syrian Ahmed Attar knows the Iranian language (Farsi) like his parrot on the shelf behind him. The bird is his best seller.

    The bazaar in the old city of Aleppo. Jet-black walls, magnificent galleries with marble arches, therein the stores.
    Hussam Farwati cleans up after a long day's wholesale. Refrigerators, water faucets, air conditioners. On them stand: Made in the Turkey!
    "Business with Turkey is booming - and it has become such simple", the Syrian Farwati can travel to the neighboring country without visas. Two planes a day go to Istanbul. Next week, three delegations from Turkey with representatives of over a hundred companies will arrive in Syria. "The Turks want to produce in Syria and want ti duty-free export to other Arab countries." Farwati will help the Turks.

    Two Syrians - two business ideas and two competing sponsors: Iran and Turkey. Since June, when Turkey refused new UN sanctions against Tehran, Western commentators speculated on a new alliance between the two countries. From a distance.
    But in the micro view there is not much to see of the alleged alliance. What happens in the Middle East is rather striking, it is the race between the two countries - the religiously based dictatorship Iran against the secular democratic Turkey. Both countries are ambitious industrial countries , both export, both have around 75 million inhabitants, both see themselves as dominant in the Middle East. The same starting conditions, the same goods, the same customers. The customers see Iran and Turkey as competitors, the customers compare them very strictly.
    Who is ahead?

    In Aleppo's old merchant galleries, Hussam Farwati swarms about the business with the Turks. Since the lifting of visa requirements last year he drives regularly to the Turkish border cities of Gaziantep and Urfa. Turkish he can not, but Turkish companies have hired Arabic-speaking Alawites - one of many minorities in Turkey. They could agree, could rely on each other.
    Not so with Iran. "In which I have become cautious," says Farwati. "The paperwork is terrible," he groans over the Iranian trade bureaucracy. The Iranians dealers were unreliable. Last year he bought lubricants from Iran. Signed only a contract, then transferred the money, faxed the documents. But the Iranian partner suddenly wanted to see more money because oil prices have risen.
    "In fact, they had fallen," riles Farwati. He canceled the contract, the contract failed to materialize, the money he paid never came back. Since then he has focused on Turkey.

    The shortfall of Tehran is obvious. The country that went through the Islamic Revolution, then in a war of attrition against Iraq from Saddam Hussein, and finally through sanctions from the UN has been sealed off.
    Under same conditions it is difficult to compete against the export professionals from Turkey. The Turkish business with Syria is growing rapidly, Iran's business stagnates.
    The situation is different where Iran can exert pressure of power politics. This is what Tehran knows.

    Welcome to Iraq
    Erbil, Kurdish territory. Turks and Iranians still run neck to neck. An exhibition of Iranian companies recently increased the city visitors. Iranians fill the restaurant and breakfast rooms. The mineral water, tea and fruits come from Turkey.
    Iranians have booked the hotel from the first to the last floor. The Hotels are built by Turkish companies. In the Kurdish part of Iraq, it looks good for the Turks. Likewise with the Iraqi Sunnis.

    In the south of the country, in Shia Iraq, Iranian businessmen dominate the market. They play on the Shiite card. In the holy city of Karbala you get toothpaste, shampoo, air conditioners and cars from Iran. In Karbala, together with the Iranian pilgrims Farsi is the second language alongside Arabic.

    The government in Tehran says Iran's trade with Iraq in 2009 had grown to four billion dollars - four times as much as in 2006. South of Karbala, the Iraqi port city of Basra, Iranian construction companies have completed just large contracts. An Iranian state bank has recently opened. The city council of Basra is closely linked with Iran. Some Shiite parties are sponsored by Tehran. Iran's government wants to expand trade with Iraq in the next three years to ten billion dollars.

    How do they do that? Nahim Yunis al-Sawi, university vice-rector in Dohuk of North-Iraq, has been watching a lot of Turks and Iranians since the fall of Saddam Hussein. The Iranians were very fixed onto target, inelegant, stiff. "I want this now!" These attitudes are written in their faces.
    The Turks - gentle, clever, even witty, flexible. In contrast, the Iranians would like to put the religion component to the fore.

    A new playing field is Africa . On the supposed continent of crisis, some countries expect an impressive growth in the coming years. Senegal, for example. What makes this country special is its growing Shiite population. Iran is supporting a theological seminary and a network of religious elementary schools. Even a Senegalese Hezbollah ("Party of God") has exited there before. The President of Senegal was already four times in Tehran. There, the President of Senegal Abdoulaye Wade, supported Iran's right to use nuclear energy, of course.
    The Host in Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was pleased with the consolation. The Iranian president visited Senegal in return, where the Iranian carmaker Khodro has built not long ago a factory. From here, all of West Africa shall be blessed with Iranian cars.

    Ahmadinejad's Africa expedition led him to majority Christian Kenya. There he negotiated contracts for the supply of oil, cars and consumer goods. In Kenya, he would have almost come across the Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who flew in with over a hundred Turkish businessmen. The Turks want to sell cars, machinery, electronic equipment, power production equpment and build houses.
    Abdullah Gul of Turkey made no secret of the competition. "The Iranian president will travel here, too," he told Turkish journalists in defence of his expensive expenses.
    The classical market in Europe was pushed to its limits, Turkey looks to actively seek out new markets. Similarly, in Tanzania, Congo and Sudan. Almost everywhere, the Turks counter the Iranians. But the methods are different.

    The Iranians advertise with Iranian cultural events, Koran reading courses and scholarships for theological studies in Iran. The Turks invite African leaders and business people to Istanbul, nappy them in superb hotels and send them back with contracts. Students will be brought to Turkish secular universities. There is also a Turkish-African Chamber of Commerce. Ankara's trade with Africa has quadrupled since 2005.

    One of the target areas is Sudan, a country whose president has an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes. Iran and Turkey do not care much about it. Nobody wants to fall behind in Sudan, Africa's largest country.
    Omar al-Bashir has visited both Turkey and Iran. Iran sells weapons to him and works closely with him militarily. The Turks also provide weapons and uniforms for the Sudanese army, as the non-governmental organization 'Human Rights First' in New York reported, despite UN sanctions against Sudan.
    The Turkish airport operator TAV hopes to operate the airport in Sudanese capital Khartoum. Just as TAV wanted to expand and operate even in Tehran. Only that the Turkish company had to withdraw from the contract after refusal of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

    In recent years, the Turks have found a new way to improve their visibility. They go directly into the living rooms of customers, they take their heart, they move them to tears. The vehicle: TV series.
    Turkish prime-time hits such as 'Valley of the Wolves' or 'Gümüs' ("Silver") are pulled out of hands from the producers in Istanbul by TV station in Arabia and North Africa. The soap opera 'Gümüş', which airs in the Arab world under the name 'Nur' ("Light"), offers weddings in the magnificent Bosphorus scenery, dramatic kidnappings and reconciliations, romantic moonlight conversations, cuddle time on the motor yacht. No less than 85 million Arabs, switch on TV when a new episode begins. It brings money and prestige at the same time.
    Soft power, the Turks call that in the modern Turkish.

    Iran has not much instruments to oppose. In Damascus, not far from the old bazaar, Iranian officials maintain a cultural center. There you can learn Farsi or you can learn to read the Koran, view images from the old arches of Isfahan.
    The Head of the Centre finds this activity more "decent" and of more "quality" then watching Turkish TV series. Maybe, but there are simply not many Syrians coming for the high quality there.
    Tehran's advantages in Syria: The Iranian arms shipments to the Syrians, the common babysitting of the Islamist resistance movements against Israel.
    Hard Power.

    Iran against Turkey? This is no military hostility, but a competition of goods and ideas. For the sought-after customers in the Middle East and Africa the rivalry between the two countries is a good thing. "Sometimes we are asked by visitors from the West, whom we prefer," said a Syrian businessman. "Both, the answer is. We do not decide." This could indeed interfere with the fair competition.

    Wirtschaftsbeziehungen: Zweikampf in Arabien ? Seite 3 | Wirtschaft | ZEIT ONLINE
  2. ekrem

    ekrem VIP Member

    Aug 9, 2005
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    The Handelsblatt (literally: "commerce paper") is a leading German language business newspaper
    Handelsblatt - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Turkey, the economic tiger
    Growth like China, debt like Luxembourg.
    The country, which German President Wulff has just visited, is full of power. Many have not yet understood.

    The economic output has tripled since 2001.
    This year, the Turkish economy is expected to grow by eight percent. This puts the country behind China on the world rankings.
    2011, government debt is expected to decline to 45 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
    In the EU, only Luxembourg is better off.

    Außenpolitik: Die Türkei, der wirtschaftliche Tiger - Meinung - Kommentare + Analysen - Politik - Handelsblatt.com

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