hasan kosebalaban turkey new middle east

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  • 7/29/2019 Hasan Kosebalaban Turkey New Middle East


    93PERCEPIONS, Autumn 2011, Volume XVI, Number 3, pp. 93-114.


    It s oten asked whether t sobjectve materal nterests or deas and

    perceptons that are decsve on urkeys

    Mddle East polcy durng the AK Party

    era. However, t s qute hard to answer

    ths queston snce the AK party accededto power n a rather crtcal stage wth

    regards to relatons wth the Mddle East.

    At ths crtcal juncture the ntellectualand structural context o the Mddle

    East had been sgncantly shaped by theSeptember 11 terrorst attacks and the

    subsequent Iraq war n 2003. It could be

    thereore argued that many polces that

    emerged wth the AK Party governmentsntatves and ascrbed to ntellectual

    actors have actually refected changes nthe strategc and structural envronment

    surroundng urkey. Ts does not mean

    that the AK Party leaders had no eecton the ormaton o polces. However,

    wth the advantage o the ntellectual

    oundatons t represents, the AK Party

    government has been able to portray a

    more fexble and dynamc oregn polcyperspectve as regards the Mddle East.


    urkey and the New Mddle East:Between Lberalsm and Realsm


    It s sometmes argued that urksh oregn

    polcy under the AK Party government reectsts deology, and urksh oregn polcy towardsthe Mddle East s oten used as an llustratono ths nuence. When t s closely examned,however, one can easly see that the governmenthas oten ollowed a manly realst oregnpolcy approach n the Mddle East and usedthe dealsm or the maxmzaton o urkshnatonal nterests. In contrast to the powerresources at the dsposal o other regonalpowers, ncludng the support o externalpowers, sectaran denttes, or ethnc-lngustctes, the key asset o urksh oregn polcy s tssuccessul combnaton o democracy and Islam.Utlzng ths mage, urkey has emerged asthe most outspoken supporter o democratctransormatons, amng to create a lberal-democratc regonal order. Ts, however, brngsurkey ultmately nto conct wth other

    asprng hegemonc powers, ncludng bothIsrael and Iran.

    Key Words

    urkey, Mddle East, Lberalsm,Realsm, Arab Sprng.

    * Assst. Pro. Dr., Department o PoltcalScence and Internatonal Relatons, stanbulehr Unversty.

  • 7/29/2019 Hasan Kosebalaban Turkey New Middle East


    Hasan Ksebalaban


    role n the confcts between ts closealles and neghbours. Although urkeys

    medaton eorts between Israel andSyra as well as between the Unted Statesand Iran have been aborted, they werenevertheless ntatves that emphaszedassertveness n urksh oregn polcy.By vrtue o ths proactve atttudethat numerous oregn observers haveevaluated as neo-Ottomansm, urkeyhas embraced or tsel an actve role

    not only n the Mddle East, but also nCentral Asa and Northern Arca.2

    In ths artcle, a general perspectveon the Mddle Eastern polcy thaturkey has pursued n the last ten yearswll be presented by examnng urkeysrelatons wth our power blocs n theregon: (1) Israel, (2) Iran, (3) the Arabcountres that are wthn Irans sphere onfuence (Iraq, Syra and Lebanon) and(4) the Arab countres whch stand nopposton to Irans ncreasng domnancen the regon (apart rom Egypt, Saud

    Araba, the Unted Arab Emrates andBahran). Evdently ths categorzatonshows that the most sgncant actor

    n urksh oregn polcy makng vs--vs the Mddle East s the emergence oIrans regonal hegemony.

    In the AK Party era, urkey hassucceeded n returnng to the regon

    as a normal power wthout havng anhstorcal xaton. In ths sense, t couldbe argued that AK Party government,wth ts strong mandate, has realzeda revson n oregn polcy that couldnot be completed ollowng the end othe Cold War due to domestc poltcalnstablty. Te AK Party has projectedto the regon a vson that emphaszessecular democracy and ts compatbltywth Islam. As Fuller ndcates Formost Arabs, the electon o a mldlyIslamst party n Ankara exempledthat countres, whch shares commonhertage and hstory can unte oneday.1 As a symbolc expresson oths reuncaton, urkey acltated

    the electon o Pro. Dr. Ekmeleddnhsanolu, an academc who s closelyacquanted wth the regon, as theGeneral Secretary o the Organzatono Islamc Conerence n 2005 n therst democratc electons conducted nthe hstory o the organzaton. It wasa symbolc expresson o the message

    that the Islamc world and the MddleEast are, rom now on, located at thecentre o urksh oregn polcy and thaturkey desres to see materalzaton o ademocratc Islamc world.

    In accordance wth Foregn MnsterAhmet Davutolus polcy target o zeroproblems wth neghbours, urkey

    moved to assert tsel as a central playern the regon by playng a medatory

    Te outbreak o the Arabdemocratc revolts n the wntero 2010-2011 caused a dramatcrupture n ths regard by orcnga revson o oregn polcy.

  • 7/29/2019 Hasan Kosebalaban Turkey New Middle East


    Turkey and the New Middle East: Between Liberalism and Realism


    general electons, many nternal andexternal poltcal observers were curous

    about the nature o the new governmentsIsrael polces. Accordng to some crcles,ths subject was a ltmus test o the newgovernments loyalty to secularsm.Subsequent to the February 28 process,even a slght devaton rom the pro-Israel perspectve was seen as sucentto reveal ts Islamc dentty. Presumably,takng these concerns nto consderaton,Recep ayyp Erdoan beore assumngthe post o Prme Mnster pad a vstto Washngton and held meetngs atseveral key Jewsh nsttutons where heexpressed a strong wll to urther developthe relatons between urkey andIsrael.3 Accordngly, untl the outbreako the 2008 Gaza War, the AK Partygovernment mantaned the usual courseo urksh-Israel relatons.

    It could thus be clamed that theAK Party kept ts commtment tothe relatonshp, whch resulted n a

    spectacular growth n the volume o tradebetween the two countres. Whlst the

    Under the AK Party rule, urkeyollowed a oregn polcy towards

    the regon that emphaszed blateralrelatonshps that oten gnored nternalcharacterstcs o regmes, partcularlyhuman rghts ssues n Syra and Iran,emphaszng nstead strengthenng traderelatons. In ths sense t was realst wthregard to acceptance o exstng regmesas partners and lberal n the sense oplacng heavy emphass on economc

    ntegraton. Te outbreak o the Arabdemocratc revolts n the wnter o 2010-2011 caused a dramatc rupture n thsregard by orcng a revson o oregnpolcy, accordng to whch urkeyemerged as the champon o democratctransormatons n North Arca. Tevctm o ths revson, however, was the

    strategc partnershp wth the Syranregme that urkey had bult n thelast decade. Under the cloak o urkshdemocracy promoton n Syra les arealst mndset regardng the rse o anIran-led Sha bloc, whch urkey so arattempted to manage dplomatcally.

    Also n ths regard, urkeys actvsm

    regardng the Palestnan queston,leadng to a deep crss wth Israel, helpedtrm Irans regonal nfuence.

    enson n the urksh-IsraelRelatons: AK Partys SecretAgenda?

    Followng the establshment o theAK Party government ater the 2002

    Followng the establshment othe AK Party government aterthe 2002 general electons,many nternal and external

    poltcal observers were curousabout the nature o the newgovernments Israel polces.

  • 7/29/2019 Hasan Kosebalaban Turkey New Middle East


    Hasan Ksebalaban


    the development o an ant-Amercanand ant-Israel publc sentment n

    urkey. US Presdent George W. Bushsdescrpton o the Israel Prme MnsterArel Sharon as a man o peaceprovoked strong reactons n the urkshpublc opnon.5

    Te Amercan nvason o Iraq n2003 was the most mportant eventthat changed the strategc context o the

    Mddle East, and n turn, aected thecourse o urksh-Israel relatons. Tshas undoubtedly let a deep mpact onthe urksh publc opnon contrbutng

    to an already strongresentment aganst

    Amercan oregnpolcy as well as Israel

    whch was the onlycountry n the regonwhch supported thenvason. At the sametme, the Iraq war

    dsrupted the tradtonal calculatonsregardng urksh oregn polcy wthnthe urksh poltcal system due to theNorthern Iraq problem. Te war helpedthe Iraq Kurds emerge as a new actorn the regon, and as a result, ensuredthat certan revsons n urkeys nternaland external poltcal decsons werenevtable. Wth the new geo-strategccalculatons that emerged on the Kurdshqueston, urkey establshed closesecurty relatons wth Syra and Iran.

    Te urksh-Israel strategc allance,whch exsted partally to end the

    trade volume between Israel and urkeywas 1.3 bllon US dollars n 2002, ths

    had rsen to 3.38 bllon US dollars n2008. In 2009, urkeys exports to Israeltotalled 1.5 bllon US dollars, whereasts mports had reached 1.7 bllonUS dollars. More sgncantly, urkeysgned several deence contracts wthIsrael, ncludng the purchase o tenIsrael-made unmanned aeral vehcles,whch amounted to 2 bllon US dollars.However, t should also be mentonedthat the value o the trade relatons wthIsrael consttuted a very modest sumo one percent ourkeys total tradevolume. In contrastto ths, urkeys tradevolume wth the

    22 Arab states hadreached at 30 bllonUS dollars durngthe ve years beore2008 and 40 bllonUS dollars n 2008. As or the urksh-Iranan trade volume, ths gure clmbedabove 10.5 bllon US dollars n 2010.4

    However, the poltcal relatonsbetween the two countres have beenheavly hndered by a seres o actonsby Israel. Te oensve orchestratedby Israel aganst the reugee camp n

    Jenn n Aprl 2002, had occurred onlymonths beore the AK Party governmenttook oce. Ts attack, whch had the

    nature o a massacre, and the subsequentUS support, drectly contrbuted to

    Te Amercan nvason o Iraqn 2003 was the most mportantevent that changed the strategc

    context o the Mddle East, andn turn, aected the course ourksh-Israel relaton

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