Turkish Foreign Policy and the Leaked Tape on Syria

While presenting my paper on a Neoclassical Realist theorization of Turkish foreign policy, yesterday (28/03/2014), I was “accused” of being wrong that systemic-geopolitical factors and national security considerations were the primary factors that turned Turkey against Syria (from friend to enemy) in late 2011. Some scholars (including Turkish ones) were saying that Turkey’s regional image, model, and legitimization (i.e. to be a promoter of democracy and “on the right side of history”) were more important.

Well, in the leaked tape (attached below) regarding Turkey’s Syria policy, you can see that national security, including the Kurdish (PKK) threat (which was one of my points), is central to Ankara’s decisions with regard to Syria. It is also clear that they have been wanting to do more (i.e. intervene) all along – which is, again, one of the arguments I make in articles and my PhD. However, a number of factors, which I will not mention here, led Turkey to adopt only an indirect involvement (e.g. supporting the rebels and sanctions). As occurs from the tape, they are today regretting the fact that they did not take more drastic measures in the recent past, although they do acknowledge the practical, tactical and logistical difficulties.

On an ideology note, it is obvious that the AKP elites are more prone to regional involvement and thus very different from the previous Kemalist establishment and its non-involvement/status quo-orientation. Therefore, as the AKP government becomes more powerful  and thus unyielding, a direct involvement or military intervention in Syria by Turkey due to the increasing insecurity becomes more likely.

On a theoretical note, it seems that Neoclassical Realism’s assumption, that the external-systemic environment plays the primary role in impacting foreign policy-making is valid. As valid as its assumption that, systemic influences could produce a different foreign policy outcome than expected (or, than a state’s foreign policy executive would like), due to domestic filtering dynamics.


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