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 →
The presentation I delivered during the 6th Changing Turkey workshop at Warwick University sought to explore Turkish foreign policy change under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) towards the Middle East from a Neoclassical Realist (NcR) perspective and it was based on my PhD thesis.[i] It was argued that systemic changes in Turkey’s geopolitical environment have been primary in driving Turkey’s foreign policy behaviour with domestic politics being secondary. Within this NcR framework the system level comprises of three independent variables (international power changes, external threat perceptions, international economic interdependence) and two intervening variables (elite ideology and domestic interest groups). The dependent variable is essentially the foreign policy outcome – Turkey’s foreign policy behaviour – with the possibility of variation between status quo and revisionist foreign policy behaviour. To trace the change in Turkish foreign policy (TFP) since the AKP’s election to power (2002) I briefly evaluate the domestic and systemic context of the 2002-2011 and 2011-2013 periods. When it comes to the domestic level I remain focused on one of the two intervening variables (i.e. the AKP elite ideology) for brevity purposes. Continue reading →
In October of last year, Russia, Israel and Cyprus conducted a joint naval exercise in waters of the Eastern Mediterranean. Though scheduled well in advance, the timing of the drill could not have been more opportune for Cyprus; the Barbaros, a Turkish seismic vessel dispatched by Ankara in order to survey the sea floor for hydrocarbons, had just entered the bitterly contested Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) between the two countries.
The affair triggered a flurry of diplomatic action. Israel called on Turkey to respect Cyprus’ right to explore for natural gas within its maritime boundaries, and Cyprus insisted that the vessel immediately withdraw. Not surprisingly, President Erdogan rebuffed these demands, and avowed that the Barbaroswould remain at sea until a distribution deal was reached for the riches beneath. Continue reading →
In the previous article, it was argued that Turkish foreign policy in the Middle East “is obviously, yet tacitly, revisionist.” Specifically, examples such as the Syrian civil war were employed to highlight Turkey’s revisionist goals (i.e. regime change) and its efforts to rely on great powers (U.S. and NATO) in order to achieve them without getting too much involved.
Another region where one could observe a revisionist Turkish foreign policy behavior is the Eastern Mediterranean. There, Turkey is part of long-standing disputes which concern issues such as the delimitation of maritime borders, air-control spaces, and Muslim or Turkish minorities in Greece and Cyprus. More recently, Turkey has also had problems with Israel and Egypt. 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 →