NURAY MERT > An independent or disappointed Turkey?

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First, it was Turkey’s regional politics which seemed to have drifted away from the politics of its longtime Western allies. Then, it turned into a minor crisis with the United States and the Western world after a very critical article on Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan appeared in a U.S. newspaper. At the same time, there is a missile crisis, as the Turkish government has announced its intention to buy missiles from China.

If we leave the conflict and crises with Israel aside, it was the policy on Syria which has been the major reason for the separation. Turkey insisted on the removal of the Bashar al-Assad regime and continued supporting the “armed opposition” despite and after Western allies became seriously concerned by the increasing dominance of radical Islamist armed groups on the opposition front. Then, the Turkish government strongly committed itself to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to the point of interfering in Egyptian domestic politics after a military coup removed MB leader Mohamed Morsi from office. At the end of the day, it seems that (Sunni) “sectarian” and (Islamist) ideological politics have started to shape the politics of the present government. Finally, the direct criticism of Hakan Fidan and indirect criticism of Turkish foreign policy turned into a debate on “Turkey’s independence” by supporters of the government. It is argued that U.S. and Western forces in general are trying to hinder Turkey from pursuing “independent politics” and becoming a more successful and powerful political actor, globally as well as regionally.

An “independent Turkey” free from the imperialist West has long been a radical leftist slogan but now it has turned into a motto for conservatives. In fact, Islamists and other right-wing political discourses have their history of anti-Westernism and in most cases, this discourse centers on “Jewish conspiracy” theories. So this backlash may not be a big surprise, but it nonetheless reflects a shift from pro-Western center-right politics to a skeptical right-wing nationalism/Islamism. If that is the case, we all have reasons to be concerned by such a slide.

Nevertheless, I think this shift is also the result of disappointment in the field of foreign policy on the part of the government. It is a common human trait to project failures onto others and become aggressive in the face of disappointment, and it is no different in politics. Besides, even if Turkey refrained from expressing its distress concerning the recent rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran, it was too much to swallow after the shortcoming of the failure in its Syrian policy.

There is no doubt that the recent rise of Iranian politics in the region disturbed three countries more than others: Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Israel and Saudi Arabia made it explicit in different ways, Turkey could not express its concern in an explicit way but felt seriously intimidated and disappointed. This is rather understandable, yet quite risky, since disappointment may often and easily lead to destructiveness, even if it might mean self- destruction.

P.S.: Turkey’s “Chinese missile story” reminded me of the Saudi purchase of Chinese missiles in 1986. The reason then was the U.S. Congress’ refusal to sell Lance missiles to the Saudis; Riyadh was determined to get the missiles, and they did so by agreeing with the Chinese. Alas, they could not use the missiles in 1990 during the first Gulf War. By the way, the broker of the deal with China was Bandar bin Sultan and the secret deal was revealed by the Washington Post in 1988. Yet, at the time, it did not lead to a major crisis with the U.S. and Bandar bin Sultan was not a U.S. critic then as he is nowadays.


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Oz_man .

10/29/2013 2:39:13 PM

Aryeh why would a Erdogan support terrorism or Islamic extremism? Where is your proof? The Turkish version of Islam is immune from terrorism and does not support violence or the overthrow of regimes. The fact you made such a claims goes to show you have no knowledge of Islam. If you read my comment you would understand that it is a no brainer to oppose dictators who kill civilians to maintain their power. Erdogan is democratically elected leader if you can't accept that then get over it.

Oz_man .

10/29/2013 2:33:34 PM

Red Tail I think you should read my comments more carefully and take your own advice. An employee of the Turkish state has been abused and the Turkish PM supported Fidan and I ask the question whose side aw you on Nuray, Ignatius or Erdogan's side? A dictator is killing innocent people whose side you support? Assad or the Syrian people? Also since when is it a requirement Turkey buys missiles from the US without question? The article lacks logic and so do you.

Red Tail

10/28/2013 7:01:59 PM

Oz_man. You adopt the logic of an ultra natilnalist when you are "whose side" and then you feel that you have to defend everythiing in Turkey, even human rights problems, problems in our foreign policies etc. But have you thought about what you actually defend when you defend human rights violations or a foreign polciy which reduces our chances to build a good county to live it. Politics is not like support a foot ball team. It is to acknowledge problems so they can be addressed to improve Turke

Aryeh Rapaport

10/28/2013 6:20:03 PM

Oz, Are you saying Turkey or Erdogan dont side with dictators? Is it immoral to side with them? Why then would Erdogan call Assad & Qadaffi dear brothers & friends while bodies piled up in the streets? How could Erdogan receive a human rights award from Qadafi only months before he was toppled? There is nothing moral about Erdogan, Qaddafi or Assad. Erdogan claims hes leading an independent foreign policy but hes really leading/ supporting Islamic extremism & terrorism. STOP!!! BAD FOR TURKS!!!

alkan alkan

10/28/2013 6:06:01 PM

The trouble with Turkey's national politics is lack of focus. It is based on opportunism and ignores realistic perspectives. Above all Turkey lacks the economic and military leverage to project power. The rest is just empty posturing. Just imagine the humiliation of asking the Dutch to defend Turkey's Southern Frontier against Syria of all countries! Where is the second biggest army of the NATO ?!

Oz_man .

10/28/2013 10:46:51 AM

Nuray I have to ask whose side are you on? A dictator is running amok and trying to maintain his power with regard to no human life how would you react to such a notion? Supporting his overthrow is a no brainer don't you think? Hakan Fidan is an employee of MIT under direct orders from Erdogan so if he is attacked don't you think it is natural for a Erdogan to support his man? How is espionage of launched from Turkish territory tolerated? I don't understand what is your point?
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