The first draft was completed in March, 2016 and was updated a few days before publication, after the coup attempt in Turkey.
One of the most important side-effects of the turmoil in the Middle East has been the crisis in Turkey’s relations with its Western partners. However, the events taking place in the Middle East or the Syria war are not the root causes of this friction; merely a triggering factor. The real reasons lie in the multileveled transformation, a sort of “revolution”, that Turkey has been going through over the past years and particularly since the election of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, or AKP) to power in 2002. These domestic changes usher in a new era for Turkey’s political scene that has many similarities – as well as differences – with Iran’s Islamic revolution of 1979. As a result, its national identity and ideological orientation shifts, something that undoubtedly impacts its foreign policy preferences, and as such will pose significant challenges to Western actors that try to work with Turkey and secure their interests in the region.
A couple of days ago I wrote a post on Facebook. It wasn’t against the French flag Facebook launched, thought it may have seemed that way. It was about the tragedy of ascribing different value to people, based on their geographies, culture and religion. My main point was that we mourn, care, act and react selectively, based on what we feel closest to us. Not based on a principled appreciation of human life. Which is reasonable, but we should maybe think about it more. This was not judgement. It was just highlighting a fact, based on my own opinion. Raising awareness of the reality that this is how our system works, and that this is how we are drawn to act and behave. I had no intention to downplay the Paris tragedy. Nor did I suggest that one life matters more than others, or that one tragedy deserves more attention than others. Quite the contrary. I’m as devastated as anyone who watched these events unfolding from afar. And I definitely do not see that post as any kind of “activism” – in the age of Facebook, this word has lost its meaning. It was just the expression of an opinion. Continue reading →
A new crisis is unfolding on the Turkish-Syrian border and Russia is once again a central actor. According to reports so far, Turkey seems to have downed a Russian Su-24 jet which, according to Ankara, violated Turkish airspace over Hatay. Russia disputes Ankara’s claims and argues that the jet was within Syrian airspace when shot down. The plane crashed in Syria (see the Guardian map below). The body of one of the pilots appeared in a leaked video and is estimated that it’s been captured by the anti-Assad Alwiya Al-‘Ashar group.
When the international anti-ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) coalition was formed back in September 2014, Turkey was thought to be a pivotal participant. However, the international initiative divided Turkey’s political scene which appeared reluctant to follow in the footsteps of its traditional ally, the United States (US). Even after October 2, 2014, when the Turkish parliament voted on a motion that would authorize the government to conduct operations in Syria and Iraq as well as provide Turkish soil and military bases for allied operations, Ankara kept resisting any kind of meaningful military engagement of ISIS. Not only that, but it seemed to be turning a blind eye on foreign fighters crossing into Syria through its borders. Continue reading →
In early May, 2015 it became known that Saudi Arabia and Turkey are supporting extremist Islamist groups in Syria against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. That Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, among others, have – mostly indirectly – been supporting Islamist groups is not news as similar reports have been emerging from time to time since 2011, if not earlier. But this policy with regard to the Syrian conflict became increasingly overt amidst growing instability and lack of Western commitment to Assad’s overthrow. According to The Independent and other media, Turkish and Saudi support focuses on the overarching jihadist group Jaish al-Fatah which includes al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra – a rival to both Assad and the self-styled “Islamic State,” also known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham). Continue reading →
Turkey has lately moved to the epicenter of world politics, and rightly so. The jury is still out on whether that is a good or a bad thing and that is because of its handlings with regard to the Islamic State (IS) crisis in Iraq and Syria. Indeed, Turkey’s indecisiveness and belated actions in the face of the potential fall of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane and the advancements of IS more generally, bring to mind the Turkish foreign policy of the past.
Through the delay to take action or the refusal to allow Western allies to use its military bases, Turkey demonstrated a well-known reluctance to engage regional security problems, a suspicion toward Western powers, and a pro-status quo tendency. These were the very features that characterized the foreign policy of Turkish Republic for the most part of its history; a doctrine very much influenced by the founder of Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, and the military-bureaucratic establishment. Similarly, Turkey’s opportunism, namely, its wish to be on the right side of history without being willing to play its part, draws parallels between today and 1945 when Turkey joined the Allies of World War II only a couple of months before the end of the war and after its outcome had already been decided. Continue reading →
The humanitarian crisis caused by the Islamic State (IS) continues to terrorize and displace hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East. The autonomous canton of Kobani is now bearing the brunt of the IS’s attacks as the international community has mostly been watching. The city has been under siege for three weeks. Despite fierce resistance by the defenders of the town, the advance of the IS forces towards Kobani is threatening to set off another massacre similar to that of Shengal. As scholars working on issues related to the Kurds and other peoples of Kurdistan, we are profoundly concerned about yet another imminent humanitarian crisis and stand in solidarity with the people of Kobani. We urgently call on the coalition forces against the IS and the broader international community to take immediate action to prevent an impending disaster by supporting the Kurds in their fight for self-defense. Continue reading →