By Halil M. Karaveli (vol. 5, no. 13 of the Turkey Analyst)
After Syria’s downing of a Turkish aircraft over the eastern Mediterranean, the question is not so much why Syria shot it down as why the two neighbors have become embroiled in a confrontation in the first place; more precisely why the government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey decided to commit itself to bringing about regime change in Syria, by which it assumed significant risks. That choice speaks of the impact that sectarian reflexes is increasingly having on Ankara’s foreign policy. What beckons enticingly for Turkey’s ruling Sunni conservatives is a pro-Turkish “Sunni crescent”, stretching from Gaza over Syria to northern Iraq. However, Turkey courts danger by assuming the role as a leading Sunni power in the sectarian confrontation in the Middle East.
By Richard Weitz (vol. 5, no. 12 of the Turkey Analyst)
NATO’s May 20-21 heads-of-state summit in Chicago reminded everyone how Turkey is making important contributions to NATO in many key areas—the war in Afghanistan, addressing new missions such as projecting security into North Africa, and developing new defense capabilities.. Turkey aspires to a leadership role in the alliance, with the hope that President Abdullah Gül, who attended the summit, will become the next NATO Secretary-General. But Turkey’s contributions risks being overshadowed by its petty efforts to limit NATO’s ties with Israel and the European Union. While these bilateral Turkish disputes are important, they should not be allowed to contaminate NATO’s vital multinational security missions.
By Richard Weitz (vol. 5, no. 10 of the Turkey Analyst)
Relations between the governments of Iraq and Turkey continue to deteriorate. For now the animosities remain primarily personal, with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki engaged in a vicious feud with both Iraqi and Turkish leaders he considers his enemies. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other Turkish officials have focused their criticisms on the Iraqi Prime Minister, and have sought to uphold the rights of Iraqi Kurds and Iraqi Sunnis without antagonizing Iraq’s Shiites. But these personal tensions reflect real differences between Ankara and Baghdad over the need for democratic governments in Iraq and Syria. And these divergences are in turn reinforced by ethnic and sectarian tensions as well as a competition between latent neo-Ottoman tendencies and Iranian ambitions to fill the vacuum created by the power vacuum in the Middle East resulting from the Western withdrawal and Egyptian paralysis.
By Richard Weitz (vol. 5, no. 6 of the Turkey Analyst)
The decision of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping to visit Turkey along with Ireland and the United States during his ten-day world tour before becoming president in about a year underscores the importance Turkey holds for China’s leaders. The AKP government’s desire for new partnerships and Turkey’s eagerness to join other states in benefitting from the strength of the Chinese economy has contributed to this flourishing relationship. Their growing mutual attraction has led them to overlook their diverging policies regarding some regional issues, such as Syria and the status of ethnic Uighur Turks in China, and instead concentrate on cultivating mutual economic and strategic ties. But that situation may not endure. Beijing will have to pay close attention to the power struggle within the governing coalition of Islamic movements in Turkey, and its implications for the future evolution of Turkey’s foreign relations.
By Richard Weitz (vol. 5, no. 4 of the Turkey Analyst)
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has just completed a well-timed visit to Washington. Although many issues arose during his multi-day rounds of meetings with congressional and executive branch figures, the topic that invariably drew the most attention in public, and likely in private, was what to do about Syria now that the diplomatic initiatives have been exhausted. Turkey and the United States have been aligning their policies toward Syria throughout the crisis, and Washington expects Turkey to assume a leading public role in any future initiative in its southern neighbor. Yet no specific new initiatives were announced by either party during Davutoğlu’s Washington visit. As has been indicated by Turkish and U.S. diplomats, the U.S. and Turkey prefer to consult with other governments also seeking a firmer stance toward Syria before committing to a concrete action plan.
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.