As the turmoil in Syria continues, concerns about Ankara’s foreign policy orientation are growing in Turkey. The noteworthy development is that these concerns are also being voiced increasingly by Islamist commentators.
This is significant because the government can brush off criticism from “secularists” as being ideologically motivated. This is harder to do when there is a convergence of views among “secularists” and “Islamists.”
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu
is known to be irked at his secularist critics. His anger, tinged with a sense of “betrayal,” is said to be also mounting towards critics in his own political camp who are lambasting him now for his overambitious policies.
Two cases in point are Hüseyin Gülerce of Zaman, and Akif Emre of Yeni Şafak, who are prominent writers in these dailies which are firmly on the “Islamist” side of the fence.
But rather than getting angry, Davutoğlu should instead take note of the criticism from what he considers “friendly quarters,” since the accusation of “ideological motivation” is hardly valid for what is emanating from that direction.
Hüseyin Gülerce, had the following to say in a piece on August 1, entitled “A New Foreign Policy for a New Turkey”:
“The right foreign policy looks to internal unity. A Turkey that can not secure this can not have the right foreign policy. If we are to speak in concrete terms, a Turkey that has not solved its Kurdish problem, has not solved its Alevi
problem, has not minimised polarisations in society, and can not reduce the tensions fed by political wrangling is condemned to be deprived of the right foreign policy.”
Going on to declare that “just as there is the 50 percent that voted for the AKP, there is also the 50 percent that did not vote for it” Gülerce says the following:
“You can not lean foreign policy on religious and ethnic divisions. You can not allow divisions such as `Islam and Christianity` or `the Islamic world and the Christian world. ` History is rife with bloody pages due to ethnic, religious and sectarian antagonisms.”
This is a truly noteworthy remark coming at a time when the government is accused of pursuing policies towards the Middle East that openly favor the Sunnis, as seen openly in the Syria conflict, and thus contributing to deepening sectarian divisions in the region.
Akif Emre, for his part, refers to “The limits of Turkey’s power” in a piece published on July 26. He says that if realism is cast aside when making claims to the effect that Turkey is the sole “game setter” and “regional power,” without whose consent “a leaf can not move,” then “the final cost for the country could be high.”
Referring to the “impasse” Ankara
has arrived at in Syria policy, Emre goes on to declare the following:
“Contrary to what was said at the beginning, the risk of Syria splitting up along ethnic and sectarian lines is not the result of the interference by foreign powers. The borders drawn by the world system of the post Ottoman era are changing and, contrary to what is thought, Turkey is not drawing the new borders. Apart from this, any new arrangements that Turkey has a hand in will not necessarily mean that these will be more just or more realistic.”
These are hard hitting words that stand diametrically opposed to the image that Foreign Minister Davutoğlu continues to plug hard for Turkey. There was a time when commentators in his camp of the political spectrum would go along with him. But the times are clearly changing as Turkey faces threats it never thought it would a mere two years ago.
The bottom line is that the number of people who believe independent of religious or political affiliations, that things are not going well in terms of foreign policy administration is increasing across the board.
Neither Prime Minister Erdoğan, nor foreign Minister Davutoğlu can afford to overlook this fact for long.