Turkish foreign policy, especially on Syria, is once again under scrutiny, following Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama last week in Washington DC.
Erdoğan got a clear message from Obama that the U.S. would not make any unilateral move regarding Syria, after what happened in Iraq. This means that no GI Joes are likely to set a foot in the Middle East in the near future unless there is a United Nations Security Council resolution. That means convincing Russia, (and China, following Russian
footsteps), who vetoed sanctions against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria in three consecutive votes. Statements by Turkish officials about their disappointment with the Western allies regarding a more active stance against al-Assad do not change the situation much. There are doubts that a visit to Russian
President Vladimir Putin by Erdoğan will lead to Moscow’s withdrawal of support from Damascus.
That is exactly why Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu
is under fire from the Turkish opposition; they claim that Davutoğlu’s idealistic outlook has not only put Turkey in a difficult position in international politics - with the perception of a NATO
country intervening in a neighbor’s civil war – but has also made Turkey a target for more terrorist attacks in relation to that chaos. We can observe a similar attitude regarding Turkish policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well, with Davutoğlu being criticized for giving too much credit to Hamas.
But is that right? Is it really Davutoğlu’s foreign policy that is a matter of debate nowadays?
It is hard to say “yes” to this question, as it has been from day one, after Davutoğlu assumed the post in 2009 following seven years in a chief advisor role. It has always been the foreign policy of Erdoğan.
This is because Erdoğan’s foreign policy does not rely on diplomacy alone; the Foreign Ministry is not the only source generating foreign policy for the prime minister. It is true that the ministry and its minister are still the main parameters of Turkish foreign policy. However, the National Intelligence Service (MİT) has become one of the major components of Turkish foreign policy since Erdoğan appointed Hakan Fidan, another chief advisor, as its head in 2010. It’s not limited to those either; Turkish Airlines (THY) and the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA) have been two increasingly important contributors to foreign policy (on the implementation side) under the rule of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) since 2002.
This fact could also be observed from the composition of his delegation to the White House. Along with Davutoğlu and Fidan, Erdoğan’s EU Minister (and advisor on the Western world) Egemen Bağış and his foreign policy deputy in the AK Parti, Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, were there as well.
It is unfair to target Davutoğlu whenever things stumble and give all the credit to Erdoğan when things run smoothly; his policy is the same as Erdoğan’s. On the other hand, it is natural to hold the foreign minister to account for undesired results that put the country in trouble. Still, Erdoğan doesn’t think there is anything wrong, and he is happy with Davutoğlu’s method of implementing his government’s policies so far.