One could be led to believe that it all started in 2013 with the election of Hassan Rouhani to the presidency of Iran. Rouhani, along with his moderate and reformist agenda, bore much optimism among Western countries that Iran might shift direction towards a more pragmatic and less anti-Western foreign policy. But this was not what put Iran to the epicenter of the Middle East and international politics.
Iran’s increasing influence and rising role in the broader region has been prompted by three main developments: a) the Iraq war of 2003; b) the withdrawal of the American troops from Iraq by 2011; c) and the failure of Western policies in the case of Syria’s civil war in conjunction with the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (henceforth, ISIS). Rouhani and the new round of negations about Iran’s nuclear program are only “the cherry on the pie.” Continue reading →
The Turkish presidential elections of August 10, 2014, bear great significance for the country’s future as well as for its domestic and foreign policies. This will be the first time that the Turkish people will directly elect the president of the Republic; something which, in conjunction with the constitutional reform process, signifies Turkey’s gradual shift from a parliamentary to a presidential system.
The main candidates are three. The current Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of Justice and Development Party (AKP); Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, who is supported by the two main opposition parties (Republican People’s Party and Nationalist Action Party), as well as by three smaller parties (Democratic Left Party, Independent Turkey Party, and Democratic Party). The third and with less chances candidate is Selahattin Demirtas, the co-president of the main pro-Kurdish party of Turkey, People’s Democratic Party (HDP). Continue reading →
Turkish foreign policy has always been a puzzling issue for both Western and non-Western scholars. Yet, the ascendance of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi – AKP) to power in 2002 made things even more complicated as it signified the gradual break of a national ideological tradition and the emergence of a post-Kemalist, neo-Islamist, ideological framework. Despite the various existing explanations, analyses and interpretations of the AKP’s foreign policy, this paper seeks to contribute to this debate by employing a different (multi-scenario) approach. It assumes that the conduct of Turkish foreign policy is based on the existence of probable scenarios, often substitutionary to each other. If that is indeed the case, then Turkish foreign policy is conducted in an opportunistic way which lacks a specific Western or Eastern orientation, and aims at the maximization of benefits in different isolated issues thus diminishing the possibility of having a comprehensive grand strategy. Through this prism it is made clear that every important issue on Turkish foreign policy agenda plays a central role in its indecisiveness and leads de facto to a Multi-Scenario foreign policy.
According to a decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Turkey has to pay 90 million Euros in damages to Cyprus in compensation for its 1974 invasion of the island. Turkey was again called by the ECHR to pay a 13 million Euro compensation to Cyprus over property rights violations in the occupied territories, in 2009.
The Court’s decision is a victory, not only for Cyprus and its people, but also for Justice itself. An internationally renowned Court has yet again ruled the Turkish invasion and occupation of 37% of the island illegal, along with a big number of United Nations Security Council resolutions. Continue reading →
In February, 2014, Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, during an interview with Al Jazeera, repeated Turkey’s three preconditions for normalization of relations with Israel: i) the Israeli apology, ii) Israel had to pay for reparations, and iii) the Gaza embargo has to be lifted. Elaborating on the latter he said that “all kinds of aid to go unhindered from Turkey to Palestine.”
Erdoğan, acknowledged the steps that had been taken by Israel through its apology and the negotiations for the reparations payment. However, he did emphasize that the issue of the Gaza embargo is still pending and that normalization of relations without this component will not work. Continue reading →
It was June, 2013. I arrived in Ankara, Turkey, right on time to witness the development of the protests that began at Istanbul’s Gezi Park and spread throughout the country’s urban centers, as well as to experience and participate in the social and political discussion that was taking place at that time. The purpose of my visit included the participation in a conference on Turkish foreign policy and some field research. That gave me the opportunity to speak and exchange views with students of International Relations, academics, experts, and diplomats.
A widespread understanding was that Turkish society had been left without a political alternative. In other words, the political opposition – most notably the Republican People’s Party, CHP – was not an adequate opponent to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). And there was no other option. Most of the people I discussed with were open in expressing their discomfort with the AKP’s policies. Others, mostly people affiliated in one way or another to the government, appeared more reluctant to directly criticize the AKP. Yet the consensus was clear: The AKP has made significant improvements with regard to the country’s democratization, economy, and foreign policy. But this did not change the fact that it became gradually authoritarian by having a majoritarian approach to democracy. As often argued, this was also reflected in foreign policy. Continue reading →
It has been over 50 years since Turkey expressed its interest in accession to the European Communities; thus far the EU’s longest application process. The cooperation with western organizations and institutions has always been an integral part of Turkey’s policy and Kemal’s idea of a secular and democratic Republic since the beginning of 20th century. However, Turkey began to adopt a less pro-Western political stance following the Cuba Missile Crisis (where Turkish territory was put under risk of Soviet bombing since it had American missiles on its soil), and the hostile American response to the Turkish intervention in Cyprus in 1964.
After the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union into numerous independent nation-states, the E.U modified its accession criteria in Copenhagen in 1993, further setting the bar higher for Turkey. Yet in 1995 the customs union between Turkey and E.U was completed and came into effect in 1996. In December of 2004 the E.U leaders decided that the 2 years (2001-2003) reform process which took place in Turkey was enough to open the negotiations process for accession on Oct. 3, 2005. Continue reading →